How to manage your digital life without losing your mind
LIFESTYLE | December 22, 2016

How to manage your digital life without losing your mind

How long can you go without checking your phone? Your email? How much time do you spend on social media? Can you easily 'lose' hours noodling around on trashy websites or playing addictive games? Do you wake up with a screen and go to bed with a screen?

If, like many of us, you're starting to feel like your online life is overtaking your offline life, it may be time for a digital detox. Let's talk about how you can start paring down the activity to that which truly serves you!

If you don't know how much time you spend online, but you think it might be too much...

According to the Quality Time app, I've already spent three hours and fifty minutes using my phone today. The Rescue Time programme tells me I've spent another three hours and forty-one minutes on my laptop, with over an hour of that on Facebook - and it's barely four o'clock in the afternoon!

When you install usage tracking software on your phone, tablet and computers, I'm 97% sure you'll be horrified to discover how long you spend in non-productive online activity each day. Put frankly, this information has really given me a kick up the bum and now I'm set on the path to cutting down all the wasted time I can. It's my New Year's resolution, as I have a way to go yet!

If you just can't stop playing addictive games or visiting trashy websites...

I'm sorry, but cold turkey is the only way to go with these. Be brave, delete the apps from your phone and install an access blocking add-on in your browser, such as Block Site in Firefox and Chrome.

The world won't end if you only ever make it to level 457 in Candy Crush, we promise.

If you struggle to get to sleep because your brain is buzzing...

Research shows that using a device with a brightly-lit screen in the hour before bedtime means your sleep will harder to come by than if you carve out some 'no screen' time before rest.

Free 'warm light' apps such as Twilight and f.lux automatically block the bluer, daylight end of your screen's spectrum after sunset, helping to minimise the disruption to your natural sleep cycle.

For those of us with a tendency towards the kind of aimless late night online rambling that leaves you bleary eyed in the morning, the previously mentioned Quality Time also allows you to set 'scheduled breaks' on particular apps between certain times. You can set as many of these periods as you like for different app combinations as well as triggering a quick break whenever you need one. For example, I have my phone's web browser and Facebook apps on a scheduled break between the hours of 11pm and 7am and if I'm trying to get a piece of work finished, such as right now, then I'll tap the 'Take a Break' button to avoid temptation.

If notifications on your phone are constantly pulling you out of focus...

Question: How is it possible to concentrate if your phone is pinging at you all the time? Answer: Not possible.

To reclaim your focus and a piece of your sanity, go into the settings for the most bothersome apps on your phone and either disable notifications or set them to silent. Believe me, life is so much better when that ninety-seven-member works party discussion on Whatsapp isn't buzzing at you every fourteen seconds.

For those genuinely important messages that you must take for personal or work purposes, go into those contacts and add an especially loud and grating ringtone. I know a chap who has air raid sirens wailing for his wife's phone calls!

Pick up your phone notifications on a schedule that works for you - try two or three times a day and see how it feels. If you're anything like me, you'll be itching to check your phone after ten minutes so let's make a pact to get better at leaving it alone!

If you feel like you're drowning in useless marketing emails...

The fantastic Unroll.Me website is a free service that helps you easily bulk unsubscribe from unwanted email lists, plus you can roll up the ones you do want into a manageable daily digest.

If you spend more time trawling social media than you do with real people...

Social media can be a real time-suck, so if you're feeling exhausted by all the updates from everyone you ever spoke to in secondary school, friends of friends of someone you once worked with and that guy, you know, that guy from somewhere or other, join the club.

Imagine opening up your Facebook homepage and only seeing posts from people you genuinely care about! Think about how nice it would be to go to Twitter for a carefully curated selection of timely updates by interesting people! These magical things are within your grasp...

No need to unfriend people on Facebook, just click the tab on their posts and request to unfollow them. Do this for everyone you're not super into and soon your home page will be a thing of streamlined beauty.

For Twitter, Instagram and the like, be ruthless in culling your follow lists. You only have so much time and so much brain space, why waste it on dull or trashy stuff you're not bothered about? Go for quality over quantity, every time. Take inspiration from Jim Carrey - followed by over 15m people on Twitter, he only follows one person: his daughter.

How do you handle your digital life? Share your thoughts and comments with us here or via Twitter and Facebook!

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