How to regain your attention by going offline for a week

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Last week I’ve been conducting an interesting experiment.

I decided to turn off all my gadgets: phones, TV, computers, iPad, anything that has a screen. The goal was simple – to regain my attention and awareness, and increase the power of my concentration. Could I disconnect for 5 days straight? Would it be possible to maintain the willpower and motivation and stick to the commitment? On top of it, I decided to water fast for these five days as well. I’m not crazy, I just like to experiment and learn new things 😊

I started on Monday and today is Saturday. I held off for 5 days.

I feel great, determined, purposeful and calm. Not only is this tech detox possible, but I’d say it’s necessary and vital for most of us. It is essential to realize how much time is spent in front of the screens, to truly comprehend the addiction to the black shiny rectangles, to the patterns and shadow impulses we don’t even know are present, yet they hold immense power over our lives and every single thought, word and action.

I’d like to share my experience and thoughts on the process and hopefully you will find it useful when preparing for your own techless week, or it will nudge you to be more aware of time spent with technology and the energy it demands.

Reasons and Goals

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Lately it’s been difficult for me to start working on a task without procrastinating. The nights were spent with a movie or one of the old trusted shows, endless Twitch streams accompanied by snacking and aimlessly scrolling and tapping my phone. I wasn’t really paying attention to the content on the TV, nor was I fully engaged with my phone. It was a tiring tug of war game, with my awareness and attention pulled from one source of dull entertainment to another.

When my phone told me that I had 4+ hours of screen time per day, I was shocked 🤯 That’s a whole day and night per week! Add computer work, video games, movies and shows on top and I’m pretty sure it would be close to 10 or more hours per day. Truly astounding discovery.

My energy levels were sporadic and mostly low, I was eating garbage, reading toxic news knowing full well it was not beneficial for me, and my anxiety was not so gently reminding me about itself. It was time for an intervention.

First and foremost, I wanted to reclaim my attention and awareness. Another goal was to improve my meditation practice, ease anxiety and lower my blood pressure. Your goals might be different, but it’s important to have one. Some days will be tough and having a goal will remind you why it has to be done. It will act as a North Star to guide you through and out. Think of your goal as a silent supportive unwavering companion.

Understandably, it’s a difficult and novel situation we find ourselves in right now. Daily norms and expectations have been uprooted in a blink of an eye and we humans strongly dislike any kind of change. Please pay attention to your mind and body before you venture out on any kind of cleanse. Be kind to yourself and others, be gentle.

Let’s prepare

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“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.”

Frank Herbert, Dune

Proper preparation is extremely important. Your environment will be your most potent and cunning opponent. If you have a possibility to go to a new remote place, I highly recommend it. Most of us are stuck at home right now, so just work within the context of your abilities and possibilities.

Setting boundaries

We all have people who depend on us and who we support. Don’t just cut them off. Take a day and text or call people who you think might try to connect with you. Explain what you are doing. Some will understand and support you; others will not hear you and will make it about them. You know your people best, so navigate with compassion and be determined.

Disconnect gadgets

“The proximity of a desirable thing tempts one to overindulgence. On that path lies danger.”

Frank Herbert, Dune

It’s very important to make sure your gadgets are difficult to reach. You will be surprised how cunning and resourceful your mind will prove itself to be, how tempting and demanding it will taunt you. Turning your electronics off might not be enough. Unpowered phone is not powerless at all: just seeing it might trigger you picking it up and turning it on. Just turn it off and put it away so you can’t even see it.

Do the same with your computer, monitors and TV. Find TV irresistible? Drape it with a sheet! Give the remote to your friends. Be creative, there are not rules here 👍

I don’t have any voice assistants at home, but if you do, it’s best to disconnect them as well. If you have some smart home features, like the lights or a camera, try to automate as much as possible, invest into remote buttons, or get a dumb phone to control them.

Deliveries

An unforeseen valuable side effect of digital detox is less money spent. Since most stores are closed right now and all you can buy is food, you won’t have an opportunity to shop!

Make sure any delivers you are getting this week can arrive without your phone’s involvement. If you can, delay ordering stuff, so it will arrive after the week been gone. Order the necessities like books or materials for your hobbies and projects well in advance, so you have everything on hand.

Set schedule

Schedule will give you an element of control over every day and something to look forward to. Routine will carry out a supportive function and feel like a blessing for your mind, as it does expect certainty.

Don’t be too strict, this is not an army camp. At the end of the day, you yourself decided to do it. Don’t be too amorphous about the day plan either. If it works for you, write a schedule on the fridge or some other visible place. If you are like me and prefer a mental vision of a day – that works fine too.

Some days will be a drag, so be flexible and attentive. Do not force yourself to follow everything to the dot. You are already working with limited resources and you need motivation and energy to stay on track.

Accountability Partner

Yes, you can go at it alone, but should you really? I have learned to value and cherish the power of my community, its support and guidance. This feat you are setting to accomplish is a heavy undertaking. Sharing it with others will lighten the burden.

I’m lucky enough to have amazing friends who are my next-door neighbors. I can just knock on their door and we will talk and spend some time socializing. This provides immense value when your motivation evaporates. Instead of sulking, reach out to a trusted friend or your partner, share what’s on your mind and you’ll see how much lighter you will feel.

Expect Unexpected

You can plan it for a week, but things that are out of your control can and will happen. Be open, flexible, smart and compassionate to every situation.

I had to turn my phone on Thursday to order some juice, to slowly exit fasting. I had no energy to walk 1.2 miles and had nothing on hand at home to make it. I was fully aware of the situation and used my phone for less than 5 minutes to arrange a delivery and make them drop it off at my door. Yes, I could’ve planned it advance, and I will for the future, but I am learning just like you 🤗

Adapt to your own situation, believe in yourself, trust the path and ask for help and support when you need it.

What to do

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Now, what the actual fuck are you going to do with all this time you have on your hands? 😁 I can tell you for sure you won’t be lazy.

I’ve been so productive this week! Completed a couple of house projects, revisited origami again, improved my meditation practice, read so many books, worked on my business (yes! you can do a lot of things with a mighty pen and paper combo), walked about 7 miles every day.

Here are some ideas of fun things you can do without the internet or your gadgets.

Hobbies

For me it was origami. I already have tons of paper and some complex models I wanted to fold for a long time, so it was natural. It’s also very calming, requires low upfront investment and is super fun for me.

Choose something that will make you spark with joy! ✨ Knitting, gardening, writing, rapping, making music, cooking, board games!

House projects

One of my friends always says, “The house is never complete”.

I took his concept close to heart and renovated my balcony, did some inventory project, cleaned the house top to bottom.

Is there something on your mind? Do you want to paint that damn bedroom finally? Or make some new shelves for the kitchen? Your home needs some love, show that you care, and it will reward you with a calming and secure atmosphere.

Reading

I’m big on reading books. I ran out of shelves in the house and now just put books and comics into a closet 😆

Paper books turned out to work best. Stock up for books in the library, get some from friends if you don’t have any, or order some online! Just make sure they arrive on time.

I was sad at first, I had no kindle and didn’t have access to ALL the books, but it’s only five days and I been able to read two big ones.

Exercise and Explore

Go outside and explore! When you are walking you can’t really stare at your screen. You can technically, but it is dangerous, and you are missing out on what’s happening around.

Stick to your workout and exercise routine. It will increase your levels of dopamine and serotonin, and that in turn will boost your motivation.

Don’t have a regular exercise rhythm going? It’s an amazing opportunity to start something new! Yoga, or just walking in the neighborhood, doing some body weight exercises at home, dancing or using jump rope, hula hoops maybe?

Just give something a try for this short period of time. Exercise is a great way to break the day and reclaim some of the energy.

Meditation

At last we come to meditation.

A person asked me today, what is it that I love about meditation.

It’s constant flowing self-transformation, me slowly becoming more me, it’s tranquility and equanimity it brings, it’s the Truth and clear knowledge I acquire, it’s compassion and empathy that fills my heart.

I keep a journal of my meditations, I write down most of them, not all. Here is what it felt like to meditate in the beginning of the week:

“It felt like a big orchestra pulling slowly, dragging behind like a viscous liquid. Took a while to set in”.

And how it felt this morning:

“What a wonderful feeling! Heard a woman laugh passing by and I could feel how sincere and bold her energy was. That laugh was true and beautiful. Feeling rested and at ease”.

If you have an established meditation practice you know what to do and how to work. I found it useful to have a book on meditation during this journey. You will find illuminating and encouraging answers to your questions.

I was reading Insight Meditation The Practice Of Freedom by Joseph Goldstein (find in your library or buy on Amazon). It’s a short book, each chapter is a concise dharma lesson and you can read it starting on any page.

Another book that you can devote your time to is Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki (find in your library or buy on Amazon). Its language is beautiful and full of fables that will keep your practice satiated and strong.

I wish you determination and wisdom on your path ❤

If you are just starting out, find a couple of short guided meditations for every day. If you have an old music player or a dumb phone laying around, just use it to listen to the downloaded files. For the brave – burn a CD or record a tape and have some fun in the process! This way you don’t have to deal with the screens at all, but it does require some unorthodox rarish equipment.

Don’t force yourself to start big. Right now, you won’t have the support of a teacher or a sangha, your community. Your untrained mind will fight you every moment of your short sit, so be kind, be gentle and start with 5 minutes. There is a lot you can learn in these long five minutes.

Make your companion one of these books or any book for beginners you have:

How to Meditate by Pema Chodron (find in your library or buy on Amazon) or

Mindfulness in Plan English by Bhante Henelopa Gunaratana (find in your library or buy on Amazon).

Read a bit of them before you step on this journey, so you know what to expect. I hope you will find your meditation practice a valuable addition to your days and it will foster your motivation, compassion and determination.

Wishing you calmness and love for yourself 🤗

Motivation Curve

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“What has mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises – no matter the mood! Mood’s a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset”.

Frank Herbert, Dune

As with all beginnings, we start high and strong and will slump into the valley of despair somewhere in the middle of the process. For me it was the third day. Doubt crept in and went into offensive formation, boredom was so acute and everlasting, mind was tempting as it always does.

These are just feelings that are passing by. The moment you remember that and let them fade away, they have no power over you. The more trained your mind is, the less difficult this stage will be, yet it will still be a formidable opponent.

“The mind can go either direction under stress – towards positive or toward negative: on or off. Think of it as a secptrum whose extremes are unconsciousness at the negative end and hyperconsciousness at the positive end. The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training”.

Frank Herbert, Dune

This is high time to call on your support partner. Reach out to them, share what’s going on. The distraction is the best weapon in your arsenal and use it swiftly. Don’t dilly dally, as your reaction time might determine the outcome.

If you are skilled and adept and not a newbie to urge surfing, it’s your opportunity to really study your mind, its trickery, the way it deceives and tempts you, the fantasy stories it tells you. Face the ultimate opponent, observe and learn. Know your limits and don’t be a fool, arrogance will surely lead to a slip and a checkmate, and you won’t even realize it!

However you choose to deal with these low points is up to you. Be ready, be prepared.

Journal

What was the last time you actually wrote something? Not typed, but wrote?

I keep a dozen or so of notebooks and my to-do lists are all pen and paper, and I keep a meditation journal.

Consider starting a journal this week. Reflect on the state of your mind and body, the challenges you faced, the victories and defeats, what worked for you and what didn’t.

It’s another opportunity to increase self-awarness and your attention span. Plus, it gives you something to do. Trust me, you will appreciate it 😆

Curiosity

Be curious. For this week be open and non-judgmental to what’s happening. Don’t make rapid assumptions, investigate even mundane things, see their essence and nature.

Remember the feeling when you were a kid and everything around was full of unexpected and you explored freely. This is the right attitude.

“Trying to create something is greed.

Rejecting what is happening is aversion.

Not knowing if something is happening or has stopped happening is delusion.”

Empathy and kindness

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In closing I would like to remind you to be kind and compassionate with what you set out to do. No matter how short or long your tech detox is going to be, you need to take care of yourself, your body and mind.

Some things that I outlined will work for you, others will now. Only you can truly know. You alone are responsible for your life and the decisions you make.

Extraordinary things will happen that will require exceptional solutions. Be open, be flexible, do no harm to yourself and others, practice empathy and kindness.

If you have any questions about the process or would like to share your experience, please do it here in the comments so we all can learn.

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