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Will Digital Detoxing Bring Back My Attention Span?

Updated: Mar 17

Clicking, swiping, scrolling, ignoring, swiping, clicking, scrolling....

a black and white illustration of a person holding a big wall plug

I got to a point last year in my studio where I was using my phone more than my pencil. Something had to change.

Features of our smart phones and the apps we keep on them are designed to be addictive. I'm interested in how these quick movements of our attention are impacting our mental health, attention spans and creativity.

Why Digital Detox?

I first heard of Digital Detoxing when fellow Stockport based small business owner, Paul Jardine of Root Web Design published a blog post talking of the impacts that technology has on us. Paul had started a digital detox, inspired by Cal Newport's (we're not related btw) book Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life In A Noisy World. I wanted to see the benefits for myself and to see if it could improve my attention span.

Defining the Digital Detox

Notice the problem and be honest with yourself

I worked out that three short hours a day spent on my phone translates to FORTY-FIVE (and a bit) DAYS per year. Imagine what I could've achieved in that time instead of scrolling aimlessly. I didn't plan to eliminate technology from my life but my goal was to reduce the time spent unconsciously consuming this irrelevant noise.

What if I'm missing out on something online?... - What if I'm not..?

Changing habits. Make it all a bit more mindful

- Analog.

Where can I cut out the need to use the phone. An analog watch, a paper shopping list, an egg timer, a calculator, a paper notepad, an alarm clock...

- Make It More Difficult To Access

Removing facial recognition/ finger print access. Swap apps around so that your thumb doesn't automatically open them. Put your phone in a bag instead of a handy pocket.

- A Digital Declutter

Unsubscribe to noisy mailing lists, stop WhatsApp from automatically downloading images, select your favourite photos and delete the rest.

Turn off the notifications that distract you the most - or turn all of them off altogether

a black and white illustration of a plug lying on the ground, prongs facing upwards

How is it working so far?

After a big ol' clear up and deleting sesh, my phone doesn't interrupt me unless someone calls. I'm more mindful of when I'm unlocking it to check on something and anything that isn't useful gets deleted. I still have a long way to go with it all but I can already see the benefits and that I have so much more patience for online tasks and no longer just feel overwhelmed by it all.

I haven't moved away from my smartphone completely, I couldn't live without Maps and online banking but I'm not addicted to these kinds of apps, they're just useful tools.

Have you come up with any handy ways to avoid smartphone distraction? Please share them in the comments - the weirder the better!


If you have a friend who might enjoy this kind of discussion, feel free to share this with them or if you have any thoughts on this subject please do leave a comment or drop me an email. To keep up with the latest blog posts, join my monthly round up here.

More on this:

- More great content from Paul Jardine My Social Dilemma article.

-Another great read is the book Stolen Focus by Johann Hari who reaches breaking point at Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion when most of the visitors are opting to use the interactive iPad tour instead of enjoying the experience of the real life objects that are right in front of them. This leads to his own digital detox experiment and looking deeper into how technology is pulling us in.

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