Fighting fire with fire might seem like an odd idea, but after you read this article, we’re confident that you’ll agree – you really can reduce your dependence on technology with technology.
First of all, we aren’t here to lecture you about your screen time. No, really – we get it. The world today revolves around digital life, and there’s no way around that fact. Either you adapt or you get left behind. However, that doesn’t mean that your smartphone should become an extension of your arm or a replacement for your brain.
Going on a digital detox or cutting down on daily screen time doesn’t have to involve going back in time to the frightening World Before the Internet (the Dark Ages, if you will). The good news is that the same technology that got you hooked on alerts, notifications and selfies can help you cut down on your dependence on Wi-Fi with everything from smartphone apps to useful retro gadgets.
This one is for all you creatives out there. Have you ever sat down with your laptop at a coffee shop to churn out a paper/report/article, only to find yourself on Facebook 30 minutes in? Trying to use a laptop for the sole purpose of writing is like attempting to use your smartphone only as a telephone – distractions abound. The Hemingwrite solves this problem beautifully by bringing together the best parts of old and new writing technology. It’s basically a typewriter that saves your work on the cloud (Google Docs, Evernote, etc.). You can type out a draft distraction-free, and then go back to edit it on your computer. Genius.
For many people, social media is the ultimate killer distraction. That’s where the Anti-Social App comes in: say goodbye to whatever social hubs keep your fingers scroll-happy, so that you can focus on the task at hand. The app blocks your digital social life for however long you need it to, and in case you’re desperate enough to try to unlock it, think again – Anti-Social is notoriously annoying to get rid of once you’ve set it.
Phone: “Hey, your cousin just commented on a Facebook picture of you from three weeks ago!” You: “So what?” The start-up App mySOOFA, short for SOcial Online Fasting, knows how you feel. The App allows you to turn off all notifications on your mobile for however long you want, so you won’t feel the need to constantly check it when it buzzes at you. Oh, and don’t worry – all those notifications get saved in the background so that you can still check them later once you’ve turned off the app.
So going back to the idea of using your smartphone like an old-fashioned cell phone – here’s the device for that. The Punkt Phone is a cool, sleek-designed mobile phone that only does two things: send texts and make/accept phone calls. Just stick your smartphone’s SIM card in the Punkt Phone and take a break from social media distractions without being completely unreachable. You might even remember how nice it is to call your mom for a change.
If you feel trapped by your digital devices, you need Freedom. No, really, the Freedom app offers you just that. You can plan out your schedule daily or weekly with restrictions on the websites you visit or the apps you use. Your digital devices are yours to control, and not the other way around, which is why you can even go to the extreme of putting your phone in ‘1995 mode’ if need be. Freedom claims to win back an average of 2.5 hours of productivity each day for its users. What would you do with a few extra hours of freedom?
As appealing as the simple life might be, lots of us have to spend our working day in front of a computer screen, which makes taking a break from the stress of the daily grind nearly impossible. It’s not like we can just walk out the door and take a stroll along a crystal clear mountain lake (and if you can do that where you work – where are you and can we come work there, too, please? Pretty please?) If you need a moment of calm, Calm.com can take you there. Listen to birds chirping, stare at the smattering of rain droplets on the trees, take in the mesmerising flicker of a crackling fireplace and breathe in deep. Feel better?
The Light Phone
“Your phone away from phone”. That’s the motto of this incredible new device that seeks to bring your connectivity to the world back to the basics in a simple, beautiful way. The Light Phone, which started as a Kickstarter project, is a credit card-sized device that connects with your smartphone and only receives or makes phone calls. That means you can leave your buzzing, blinking, distracting smartphone at home, slip the Light Phone into your wallet, and go about your day carefree – and without missing a call from Mom.
This free app lets you block certain time-leeching websites on the Firefox web browser to keep you on task. You can block a site for a specific time or just limit the amount of time you’re allowed to spend on it each day (ex: browsing boredpanda.com for a max of 30 minutes per day). You’ll hate yourself, but also appreciate the amount of work you can suddenly get done without all those cat video breaks.
Need some visual stimulation to keep you focused on your detoxing goal? Forest is a cute app that aims to keep you away from time-wasting apps by planting a tree. Whenever you need to focus, you just open the app and “plant” a seed. The seed grows slowly into a lovely little tree, and it can only continue to grow if you stay in the Forest app. Your conscience will keep you from logging onto Facebook, because if you leave your Forest, the poor little tree will die. You don’t want that, do you? The more trees you plant and grow, the larger your forest gets. You can compete with your friends to see who has the most magnificent ‘focusing forest’ of them all.
If you’re the type that just needs to go cold turkey, this is the app for you. Digital Detox is an Android app that takes things to the extreme. Once you’ve committed to it and set the amount of time you want to be locked out of your phone, that’s it – there’s no going back. As clever as some of the other, softer apps and solutions are, sometimes you just need to cut the cord and shut it all down. Think you can handle it?
Not sure if your digital dependency has gone too far? Take our quiz and find out.
Article by Gail Wilcoxen