No-one could have guessed the impact — both good and bad — that modern technology would have on our lives. It’s time to take control of those time-sapping social media apps before they start controlling you. Here’s how to regain your personal, family and social time with a virtual detox to digitally declutter your world.
Photographer: Lisa CohenStylist: Lee Blaylock
1. Take control of emails. Leave the email program closed, and set times during the day to check it. Productivity expert Merlin Mann suggests getting your brain out of your inbox by deleting or archiving as many emails as possible, forwarding those best answered by someone else, and placing the rest in a folder named ‘requires response’.
2. Kill the ping. You don’t need email notifications throwing you off your game. Turn them off right now.
3. Free up space. On Gmail, click the down arrow right of the search bar, tick ‘has attachment’, and delete old emails with attachments. Ruthlessly unsubscribe from email lists.
4. Delete desktop icons. Remove as many icons as possible from your desktop, advises Joshua Becker at . “It is the equivalent of working at a cluttered desk,” he says.
5. Use free tools to clear bloat. Windows’ built-in disk cleanup tool can find and wipe unneeded files, says PC Pro associate editor Darien Graham-Smith, while Mac OS Sierra offers storage management in the system information tool. Clear your Safari cache manually, via settings > Safari > clear history.
6. Stream music and films. But be warned, not all films are available online so don’t be too quick to ditch hard copies. I threw out all my plastic DVD boxes and kept the disks of the rarest films and television shows in slim Slappa brand DVD albums that I ordered from America.
7. Quit social media. Do you really need to be checking Facebook and Twitter constantly? Consider restricting their use to computers and laptops, but removing the apps from your mobile phone.
Photographer: Getty Images
8. Audit permissions. How much of your personal information are you giving up? For apps, check settings > privacy on iOS and settings > apps on Android. Check apps on Facebook while you’re at it.
9. Keep it out of sight. The University of South Australia’s Centre for Work and Life found nearly half of workers with a mobile device check their work emails outside work hours. The University of Southern Maine found the mere presence of a mobile phone is distracting, so put the phone in a separate room at night from where you spend your leisure.
10. At night, switch off. University of Florida researchers suggest working on your digital device after 9pm reduces the amount and quality of your sleep, while increasing fatigue and diminishing work engagement the next day. So, that’s a good time to put down the mobile or tablet.