If we’re going to do a digital detox, we want to be able to measure where we’re failing and where we’re making progress. So, what areas should a digital detox focus on? The two main areas to audit are quantity and quality.
How many hours a day do I spend on my devices? Include all your devices: phone, iPad, laptop, desktop, video game console, etc. Do not include time spent purely for vocational purposes. Include browser time, text time, and App time.
How many times a day do I use my devices? Someone may not spend 10 hours a day online but they may be ruining their day by checking into Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and email fifty times a day. That’s not an exaggeration, by the way. According to Time magazine, the average American checks their phone 46 times a day and for the average teen, it’s 74 checks a day.
How useful/valuable/productive/healthy is the time I spend using my devices? This is not just a question about whether some activity is moral or immoral, but whether it is wise or foolish, important or trivial, valuable or worthless.
There are different digital ways of measuring these habits. I’ve regularly used Toggl to audit myself. Also, some of the Internet Accountability apps and plug-ins can provide some of this information. However, as we’re trying to reduce our dependence on technology, it’s probably best to use a simple index card.
Start each day with a fresh card and divide it into six columns:
Column 1: Your first digital check-in is #1, your second is #2, and so on.
Column 2: Start time
Column 3: Finish time
Column 4: Total time (difference between column two and three)
Column 5: Grade each check-in on a scale of 1-3 for how useful/valuable/productive/healthy/necessary was the time spent with 1 being the most useful and 3 the least. (I’ve reversed this scoring for reasons that I’ll explain next week).
Column 6: Leave this blank for just now and next week I’ll show you how to fill this in and how to use the data on each card
Even just recording this information should have immediate benefits. I’ve given this and similar exercises to a number of people, and every single one of them has said that they were shocked to discover how many times they were going online, how long they were spending there, and how most of what they were doing was such a waste of time.
Just doing this simple exercise made an immediate impact on the quantity and quality of digital data they consumed.
Now, a deep digital detox is going to require a much more sophisticated and complex audit to produce long-term results in every area of life. We’ll get on to that in coming weeks. But use this as a starting point.
I’ll be doing a Facebook Live event on Friday at 1pm ET to talk about the Digital Detox and to answer your questions. This might seem a bit ironic — starting a digital detox with more Facebook! However, I’m hoping that more will ultimately produce less. I’m also hoping that building a temporary community of digital detoxers will encourage us through the withdrawal symptoms.