My Digital Detox

It’s no secret that I am a major fan of technology. I love learning about everything and most importantly sharing as much of it as I can with everyone here at the blog. However, I often get asked about how long I spend on my computer researching and using the various tools and engaging in various social networks. It must be hours and hours per day??

Well, the truth is that once upon a time, this might have been true. However over the last two years my digital life and productivity revolving around it has been transformed, by some super simple yet powerful practices.

How Do I Manage?  What Rules Do I follow?

Mentality

The first piece of advice I have relates to the fact that you must be 100% with the fact that you CANNOT keep up. No one on earth can read and engage with every Tweet, Facebook post, email and digital notification in their life. Accepting this fact is liberating.

No Notifications

Up until two years ago,  I used to receive and react to every single notification that hit my phone or iPad. The result was a distracted Jarrod, who’s attention was constantly shifted away from the task at hand.

Screenshot 2015-10-20 12.15.03

Since realising how much of an issue this had become, I made a rule to BAN all notifications on my iPhone, iPad and anything else that could interrupt my focus. This ban extended to literally every single possible communication such as

  • Email, Text Messages, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and every single app installed on the device.

By making this tiny change, you will restore your power in the digital equation resulting in situations where YOU choose when and where to check the social networks, apps and services you use.

Email

The best piece of advice I have here is to schedule the times in the day where you read and respond to email. Yes, I’m 100% serious.

Now you might be thinking that there is no way you could manage the school day without your email being glued to your hip. I’m here to tell you that you 100% can, and any employer who demands immediate responses from you via email, is not only demanding but choosing the wrong tool.

If it’s that important and timely, they shouldn’t be using email.

Not only does constant checking force you away from the present, but the repeated task shifting results in you being less productive inside your inbox. It also creates bad habits that make you more stressed, less focused and ultimately less purposeful while inside your inbox. More on this later.

Don’t get me wrong. Email should still be part of the communication inside of schools. However, we should be much clearer on visiting our inboxes on our terms.

Inbox Zero

Email is one of biggest culprits zapping our daily attention levels. After all, email is the “To Do List” from other people demanding your attention. Therefore, each day you’re left with a mental burden of tasks that you need to act on, which build up over time resulting in an email count that looks like the following. YUCK.

This was certainly once the state of affairs for my email accounts. However, for the last 18 months I have finished the end of every day having achieved ‘Inbox Zero‘. For those unfamiliar, inbox zero is a rigorous approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty — or almost empty — at all times.

Now bear in mind that I receive over 200 emails per day through my various email accounts. However, I have rigorously applied the Inbox Zero philosophies to achieve it every day.

To help me make this happen I utilise the incredible software product ‘Active Inbox’, which follows the basic premise of delete, delegate, respond, defer and do. 

I schedule in my email management 2-3 times throughout the day and follow the steps outlined below.

  • Turn all notifications off and don’t leave the email client open.
  • Process email in blocks throughout the day, for me this morning, sometimes lunch and evening. On the weekends, it usually moves to once per day.
  • First delete or archive as many new messages as possible. You can also unsubscribe to newsletters you don’t read
  • You should forward what can be best answered by someone else to someone else.
  • Immediately respond to any new messages that can be responded to in two minutes or less.
  • Move new messages that require more than two minutes to answer — and messages that can be answered later — to a separate “requires response” folder. This is what ‘Active Inbox’ automates for me.
  • Set aside time each day to respond to email in the “requires response” folder. I process this folder at the end of the day.

The net result of this disciplined approach is hard to explain. However, I guaranteed finishing the day with an empty inbox is something you will become addicted too.

This brings us to the end of Part 1 of the 3 Part ‘Digital Detox’ Series. Join us in the next post as we explore the power of automation and how you can use it to become more productive in your daily life, resulting in you needing to spend LESS time using your digital tools.

I challenge you to do the following

  1. Complete the 48 hours NO NOTIFICATION challenge on your mobile phone.
  2. Declare Email Bankruptcy on your overflowing unread emails by deleting or archiving them all. You can now start fresh with the Inbox Zero principles.

Let me know how you go in the comments below and I’ll be randomly picking a winner for a special prize November 1st.

 

 

2 thoughts on “My Digital Detox”

  1. Timm Januszewski

    As a teacher or any professional for that matter, we are so used to checking email, text, ect. frequently. I suggest putting down that device at a certain period early in the evening and not picking it up until the morning. This seems to let me catch up on all the items I need to catch up on prior to addressing new items. I love your ideas on organizing and prioritizing emails, and I am going to give it a go starting tomorrow.

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