A Light and Easy Technology-Cleanse Challenge

Have you noticed it, too?

You’ve been working from home. No commute required. Casual Friday every day. More scheduling flexibility. Yet, you feel mentally drained, physically exhausted, and possibly even burned out.

What’s going on?

Over the past four months, we’ve become intimately involved with our technology. A key commonality in how we’ve been consuming every aspect of our lives in 2020—work life, connecting with friends and family, news updates, engagement in social justice actions, schooling, entertainment, social media, and more—is that they’ve all been conducted via our devices. For all of the wonders of working, connecting, engaging and consuming via our screens, for which I’m truly grateful, unceasing screen time takes a mental and physical toll.

We now famously know from Tristan Harris, technology design ethicist, whistleblower and founder of the Center for Humane Technology, that our devices are designed to addict us. Just a few of the research findings on smartphone use are that they fuel anxiety, contribute to higher stress, even burnout, disturb our sleep, and diminish our ability to concentrate, think deeply or creatively. Research also shows, and I’ve observed this in myself, that the mere presence of a phone—even when turned off and silent—is a distraction. These blips of self-interruption not only decrease our focus and productivity, but increase our stress.

I made a conscious effort to avoid smartphone addiction somewhat before the pandemic, but since March, my phone has become another limb. While I use it for all of its intended purposes, I also scroll unnecessarily. I reach for it randomly, without awareness, and find myself staring at the screen looking for … what?  

Because technology is a tool, one that we’re meant to manage, and not the other way around, I’m offering a light and easy Technology-Cleanse Challenge. Be being selective and intentional about our technology use, we’re able to reclaim our time, our energy and our sanity.

  • Get out of bed without scrolling through your phone first

  • One step further than that, complete your morning routine before getting on your phone or other devices

  • Take a walk without your phone. If you take it with you, walk without holding or checking it for the entirety of the walk

  • Wait in a line without looking at your phone

  • Put your phone away—out of reach and out of sight—for stretches of time, while working and/or eating meals

  • Schedule email (This is a practice I recommend to clients regardless of their level of phone use; it’s a game changer)

  • Eliminate screens—phone, computer, television, tablets—at least one hour before sleep

I began reading Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism last year but got distracted (probably by my phone). Perhaps with my newfound free time, I’ll pick it up again.

What recommendations do you have for taking charge of your technology life? Please share them in the comments.