Clean Up Your Digital Habits

When I think of werewolves I only thought of one possible scenario : Get Bit > Transform at Full Moon / Can't Control Your Transformation.

However, I was recently proven wrong when I watched the Netflix show “The Order.” In the show, the Dormant Werewolf Hide Chooses You >  Moon seemingly has nothing to do with it / You Can Control Your Transformation.

As a sci-fi nerd, I thought rewriting the old werewolf canon was pretty cool.

What about the personal stories that we write for ourselves? Can they be re-written? Can we control our transformations?

When I think about some of the bad habits that I've created it's easy to dismiss them as "I’ll never be able to stay off of my phone."

I’m here to tell you today that you can re-write your digital habits.

Why I bought an iPod Touch

When Steve Jobs introduced the new iPhone in 2007, he claimed it was a “Widescreen Ipod + Revolutionary Mobile Phone + Breakthrough Internet Communications Device”

Ipod + Phone + Internet Browser. No app store or social media yet.

It was a beautiful idea. Keep everything in one place and reduce the need to have multiple devices in your pocket and check your email on the go.

Fast forward 12 years later and anxiety seems to be an all time high for people that have had their attention stolen by smartphones.

I will admit, I fall into this category. It’s taken me a good portion of the last year to slowly reduce my usage, especially right after I wake up. It wasn’t enough to turn on “Do Not Disturb” - I have to put it in the other room! Even during my waking hours, I have to hide in from sight to avoid temptation.

“Well, every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see ‘What did I get?’” Tristan Harris answers. “There’s a whole playbook of techniques that get used [by technology companies] to get you using the product for as long as possible.”
- from Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I recognized my problem, but it wasn’t enough for me to delete all my apps. However, the apps vying for my attention - Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Slack - they had to go.

This all changed when I wanted to get more into meditation. I enjoy the practice, but having a guided voice to walk me through the process is far easier for me to help build the habit, through an app called Insight Timer. I decided that I wanted to meditate first thing in the morning….but hit a snag. I don’t want to use my phone right when I wake up!

I had a weird idea to sneak back into the late 2000’s mindset and purchase an iPod touch, to be used solely for meditation and playing music. Since then, I have meditated for almost a month straight without skipping a day! This realization did cost me a little bit of money, but it saved me a huge peace of mind. I know its purpose, and I don't have to use my mental energy to shift it into anything else.

“Once the mental grooves of habit have been carved into your brain, they are nearly impossible to remove entirely - even if they go unused for quite a while. And that means simply resisting temptation is an ineffective strategy. It is hard to maintain a Zen attitude in a life filled with interruptions. It takes too much energy.”
- from Atomic Habits by James Clear

I could have used a LOT of my willpower up by meditating using my phone, and my day might have not gone as well. But having an iPod touch and using it only for meditation and music is life changing.

How can you change your environment and build positive habits?

Creating a Communication Plan

After creating habits to keep me off of my phone, I wanted to make sure I had a structure in place for my workday. I’ve never worked in a place where I wasn’t constantly logged into email or checking social media whenever I had a free moment. It’s easy to goof off but terribly distracting when you are trying to work deeply. I crafted a plan to regain control of my day, and in turn be more present with myself and others. 

Email

  • 3x Daily - Morning, Afternoon, 1-2 hours before finishing up
  • Gather any information I may need for certain tasks

Slack

  • Less than 1 hour a day

Phone

  • Notifications OFF during Pomodoro Times
  • Only Check after morning routine

Social Media

  • Check all at a scheduled time, 30 minutes maximum. Once a day.
  • Create posts in advance, schedule them, and check AFTER they are posted to reply to comments and whatnot
  • Instagram - Flume + Later.com for posting/checking
  • Facebook - Web App with News Feed Eradicator installed 
  • Twitter - Web App - Beware of the time-suck!
  • NO Social Media after 6pm

How can you clean up your digital habits?

Create a morning routine that avoids technology.
Your brain is super malleable in the morning, and your morning routine will often set the tone for your day. If you reduce external inputs before you are fully awake, you might find yourself more clear-headed and focused.

Remove all time-sucking apps from your phone.
If this isn’t an option, try using the “Screen Time” limiting function that most smartphones have implemented. Really evaluate if you need an app on your phone or not.

Do a social media detox.
I’ve done these time and time again, and always feel refreshed coming back into the social-media space having cleansed myself of the bad habit. 30 Days is the recommended start time for this. Check out this article by Jason Zook regarding his detox. 

Set a time limit for social media.
As a business owner, using social media is part of the job. It can be so easy to sneak off for a “quick glance” on Instagram, but limiting and scheduling my usage to post and interact helps reduce the “drowning” feeling I sometimes get.

Replace a bad habit with a new one.
I know you’re tired at the end of the day and it’s sometimes easy just to consume the social feed, but try finding an equal activity that doesn’t require too much brainspace. Doodle, listen to a podcast, heck - stare out the window! It can be uncomfortable at first, but being bored is also a good activity.

Go Analog, Baby.
1. Sometimes I feel like I’m the last person to go to the library, but I just can’t do e-readers. I have far too many options to choose from and my focus gets skewed by the excitement of a different book. Also, paper books don’t need to be charged. 
2. Get an old fashioned watch. Avoid getting sucked into your phone notifications when all you wanted was the time. 

Keep A Daily Log.
Track your habits to see your progress. One of my goals is to stay off social media after 6 - which is usually attainable since I don’t have social media on my phone anymore, and my computer is shut off by then too.

Set a Pomodoro Timer.
Go to Tomato-Timer.com and set your “pomodoro” for 25 minutes - with a 5 minute break. Turn on “Do Not Disturb” See how much you can accomplish!

Set forth (like a new werewolf), and don’t allow external factors (full moon) to control you.

Recommended Reading*:

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Atomic Habits by James Clear

*these are affiliate links

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Jenni Kowal - Owner of Anytime Creative