Last week I had a digital detox. Ok, so just saying those words makes me feel rather poncy and hipster-ish. Like I’m some new-age hippy who lives off green juice and rises at 5 am for an hour of meditation. Which, I’m not. (5 am starts are reserved for very special occasions, like watching the sunrise in the mountains, or flying somewhere exciting.) But, somewhat accidentally, I spent a full seven days with no internet access (bar one hour to check our hiking routes), no social media and talking to almost nobody apart from my new husband.
New husband? Oh yeah, I should probably mention that … Two weeks ago I got married! Which is why there’s been a yawning gap in blog posts this month, for which I apologise. (Oh, you didn’t notice? Okay then …) I had planned to schedule a pile of articles in advance, but I was so busy finishing off client work, setting up my new author website and frantically trying to get everything ready for our DIY wedding that, well, it just never happened. But the hard work paid off; we had a fabulous wedding day and our friends and family appreciated all the personal touches that had gone into making it extra-special. More on that in a future post!
After a crazy six months of going full-time with Windswept Writing, writing my first novel and prequel novelette and planning the wedding, I was pretty exhausted come W-day. We’ve got a super-exciting (and energetic!) honeymoon planned next year (more on that in a future post), but we had no time to plan anything for after the actual wedding. So we decided to pack up our biking and hiking gear in our campervan, Sadie, and head to wherever the sun was shining.
I should probably make it clear that I did not in any way plan to have a digital detox. I did think I should probably separate myself from my phone and Twitter for a day or so to look lovingly into my husband’s eyes and all that jazz. But taking a full week away from the digital world and my computer? Well, that was completely accidental. A whim of fate perhaps, that the place with the best forecast in the UK happened to be the north-west coast of Scotland. Where, if you happen to be on EE’s network, you get absolutely zero mobile phone signal.
A Whole Week Without the Internet?
Why, yes! And not just without the internet, but without contact with friends and family. No text messages. Or WhatsApp. And it was bliss.
We walked in the hills, went on gentle cycle rides to deserted beaches, swam in rivers and the sea and slept a lot. I read a book and got half way through a second and scribbled down ideas for a new book, the words tumbling from my head through my pen and out onto the pages of my notebook. We wild camped on the beach and drank wine by our campfire.
It took me back to my childhood. In the days before the internet, or when you could only access the internet through your desktop PC at home. (Showing my age here!) Smartphones hadn’t been invented. Social media wasn’t a ‘thing’. There was no pressure to showcase your perfect life to the world, or to be in constant touch with online media. There’s a reason I read many more books as a child than I do as an adult. The internet has changed our world – in many ways for the better – but there are two sides to every coin.
The Benefits of a Digital Detox
The internet is the world’s largest city. The city that never sleeps. Where everyone and everything is on show. Where things move at a hundred miles an hour and even if you learn to work faster and smarter, you can never keep on top of it all. I will admit to being a bit of a perfectionist at heart. I want to know everything, be good at everything and achieve more. The internet feeds these desires. But it can also distract from what is really important to me. The love of my family and friends. Spending time in beautiful, remote places. And a lot of the time, rather than promoting my creativity, the internet detracts from it.
Do you ever feel as if you’re permanently attached to your smartphone? Like you need an extra pair of hands and eyes to manage that as well as day-to-day life? Like me, you may feel guilty for spending so much time online, away from your loved ones. But social networking is necessary for your business right? Right. But your business is YOUR business. And that means you can make it what you want.
When we finally got phone and 4G signal back, on our drive south, I was strangely reluctant to check my phone and connect with the real world. But we could stay in our bubble of escapism forever. But I could feel the benefits of my time away from the internet and social media. I went away exhausted and overwhelmed. I came back relaxed, revitalised and determined to get a better balance in my life going forward. Part of this was down to having a long-overdue holiday. But part of it was also due to my digital detox.
How to Make the Most of Your Digital Detox
If your earn your living online (or are simply addicted to Facebook), the thought of unplugging yourself from the internet may fill you with horror. But it’s easy enough to plan for. Schedule your social media posts and any publications in advance. Tell clients you’ll be away for a bit. Put an out of office on your email, or, if you can afford to, employ a VA to check and respond to anything urgent on your behalf. And accept that life will not end if it takes you a few days to get back to people, or respond to tweets.
Then leave your computer behind. Lock your smartphone in a drawer (or go somewhere where there’s no phone signal!) and enjoy having time to yourself. Whether that’s walking in the hills, going on a mammoth bike ride, meditating by a river or reading a good book, do something that makes you happy.
Many people escape the internet to have a period of time for reflection. Sophie Radcliffe, of Challenge Sophie, took time out to think and plan where she wanted to take her business. Tim Ferris freely admitted that one of his priorities for 2017 was to take long periods of time away from the internet. Everyone needs some space to breathe. To be themselves.
Coming Back Down to Earth
Or, should I say, back to digital life! Of course, it’s inevitable. But there are things you can do to build moments of digital detox into your everyday life. Some people meditate, others journal. Morning and evenings are good times of day to focus on this. Here are some ideas for morning rituals that can help set you up for the day. You probably don’t have time to do all of them (unless you’re one of those 5 am risers), but choose something that works for you.
I took some time to reflect whilst on my digital detox and made a few of my own resolutions for how I wanted my life to be. In the interests of accountability, here they are:
- Have a minimum half a day digital detox each week (I.e. no internet or phone!)
- Have one weekend a month where I go completely offline, and ideally off-grid
- Let my body sleep. When I’m exhausted, my creativity drops
- Prioritise outdoor time with my man!
Have you ever taken a digital detox? Do you feel the need to? And what resolutions did you set yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts!