I went for a week without Instagram on my phone because of this challenge. The thing that doing this did most was to make me realise how many times I pick up my phone and mindlessly go to that app and start scrolling through it every day. I’ll admit to picking up the phone several times a day even when the app wasn’t there and scrolling to the screen where it was before fully realising I couldn’t look at it, and then feeling ever so slightly lost because I didn’t really know what to do then.
The most interesting part of this challenge was the emails I received from Instagram telling me to come back and see all the posts I’d missed while I’d been away. It was trying to entice me back!
I finally gave in to my desire to post some photos that I’d been working with and reinstalled it. Yes, Instagram won.
However, I don’t want Instagram to be the default thing I turn to when I don’t have anything else to do. I want to be a lot more mindful about using it and if I find myself reverting to my old ways I might have to delete it again for a while!
Anyway, on with the rest of the experiment. Challenge 5 is called Take a Fakecation, which is “a vacation in the form of a break from the digital onslaught that exhausts, distracts and keeps us from thinking beyond the everyday.” (Bored and Brilliant, page 128.)
What you do is choose a time to unplug from everything—email, social media, texts, phone calls—and focus on something you really want to get done.
Some people use this strategy at work to get time to focus on a project without being disturbed or distracted by email notifications. The book suggests setting up auto messages on the channels where you are most likely to get disturbed (hello, work email) to let people know you’re offline focusing on a project but to let them know if they need to reach you urgently they can still do so by another means.
Some people do this regularly, as a “digital detox”, and not necessarily because they want to work on a particular project, just to unplug and focus on something else like their family, reading, hanging out with friends, watching sunrises, whatever they want. I know of people who disconnect every Sunday and I know people who occasionally take a month off all social media.
At work, I’m working on a very big job that requires all my concentration and needs to be done by Monday. I blocked out Thursday and Friday in my calendar to work on it and basically did nothing else for two days. I decided to try the auto-reply thing on my email for this challenge, which told people what I was doing and that I’d get back to them later, but if they needed to speak to me urgently, they were welcome to come and talk to me.
In an ideal world, I’d have moved into a quiet room to be free of all distractions in a noisy open-plan office, but the rooms I have access to aren’t set up for all-day use. I’d have to have been on my laptop all day, which isn’t good for my back or my neck and doesn’t give me the two screens I need to do most of my work. So, I was at my desk in the middle of the day to day chaos trying to focus.
I don’t think I did this challenge particularly well. For a start, my workplace doesn’t have a culture of expecting people will respond to emails immediately and people generally do come and find you if they want something urgently, so I didn’t really need the auto-reply. Secondly, I needed to clarify several things with other people while I was doing this work, so I needed to email them and to get their response to incorporate into my work, so turning off email wasn’t really an option. Finally, I kept my phone on and allowed myself to get distracted a couple of times by messages from my friends (which, with the intensity of work I was doing, were actually very welcome and made me take breaks I otherwise wouldn’t have taken).
I think I need to think this one through a bit better and figure out some ways for digital detoxing and doing focus work that will work for me.