Are you stuck spending your spare time staring at screens even though you already spent 9 hours working in front of your computer because you’re too tired or not sure what to do instead? Are you finding you’re using social media and mindless online scrolling more and more as an escape? Are you finding it challenging to set boundaries around time on your device given new virtual work structures in your life? Do you feel like your phone and computer are hijacking your bigger goals - like readying deeply for pleasure or your professional life?
If all or any of these are true, then these ten steps are for you:
1. Go greyscale: Colorful icons give our brains shiny rewards every time we unlock our phones. Remove those positive reinforcements. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Turn on Color Filters, and set to “Grayscale." Your phone just got a lot less sexy. Go read a book.
The sheer volume of information you’re expected to process daily makes it difficult to focus on what matters. To control your digital consumption, regularly cull your accounts. I call this digital house-cleaning.
2. Social media unfollow: Pick one social media platform and unfollow 20 accounts. Ask yourself: Who is this? Does it feel good, or is it important? Do I want to bring this with me? If not, say goodbye. Now, pick up a magazine.
3. Email unsubscribe: Spend 10 minutes unsubscribing from email newsletters. (Unroll.me is an excellent free resource for this.) You just got back 10 minutes a day to enjoy a novel. You’re welcome.
4. Charge your phone outside the bedroom.
5. Only keep “want to read” books on your nightstand. To binge-watch or not to binge-watch…? That is the bedtime question. Eliminate “should” (i.e., I “should read this book because…”) books and replace them only with books that excite you. Remember, this book is up against the ultimate opponent: Netflix.
6. Desktop tidy: Do you have a mild panic attack when you startup your computer? It’s time to tidy. Organize your files into two categories, Important Documents, and Spark Joy. If an item doesn’t belong in either folder, pull it into the trash and say goodbye.
7. Phone clean-up: Delete all apps you haven’t used in the last month and keep time-wasting apps in a creatively named folder like Are you sure? at least one swipe away from the home screen. Better yet, delete them. Now, open a book.
8. Invest in a print newspaper or magazine subscription and commit one weekend hour to read without pause.
9. Read a poem aloud.
10. Enjoy the traction you’ve gained. The next time you feel your mind spinning online… Stop. Log off. Go read.
Christina Crook is the author of Good Burdens: How to Live Joyfully in the Digital Age (Nimbus Press).