When looking for a way to digital detox most of us — besides the likes of Woody Allen — aren't going to pay people to do our Internetting for us. The 25 days disconnected from the Internet that "performer, writer, CEO, youngest child" Baratunde Thurston chronicles over at Fast Company would not have been possible without the help of his "chief of staff" Julia Lynton Boelte, who he had check his email every few days. The other option, just disconnecting completely and living without the Internet by yourself, as Paul Miller did for a year for The Verge doesn't sound very pleasant. There should be something in between. Since most of us don't have personal assistants to keep up with out digital lives while we disengage, is there a way for normal people to detach? The answer is to make tech work for us, not work for our tech — especially if you can't make people work for you. But, how? The Atlantic Wire has some ideas.
Turn off the noise: Thurston didn't just rely on his "chief of staff" to deal with inbound digital traffic; he made sure that there were fewer digital distractions flying his way. If you feel like you need a break from it all, consider turning off phone notifications for the least important apps. "There was no rule that I had to restore Shazam’s rights of interruption on my lock screen. There was no law forcing me to be notified of each Twitter mention," he writes. No wonder Thurston felt overwhelmed with technology — he had Shazam push notifications enabled. For why? Is there an important song recognition message Thurston has to get? Obviously not.
Get a better email system: Email is impossible to escape — not even Thurston could really get away from his electronic messages. For those of you who can't pay someone to check Gmail, but also feel overwhelmed with messages, consider an e-mail solution, like Mailbox. The techies love it, including king of the chilled-out tech people, Brian Lam of The Wirecutter. For those who can't handle the idea of setting up a whole new app, Gmail's new tab system filters out a lot of the crap. Note how I have a new (garbage) message under the promotions tab, but it doesn't show up in that dreaded inbox number.
Disconnect for just a weekend: Or a day, or a half day, or a meal — whatever works for you. 25 days is extreme. So extreme that only someone with a lot of resources at their disposal like Thurston can really do it. But a day, or an hour, without email access shouldn't result in any missed emergencies. If an email goes unanswered for a weekend, generally nothing too terrible results. While some people get real value out of this sort of thing, if the idea of not answering emails stresses you out more than the idea of a detox, maybe pick a different, less valuable, technology to detach from, like Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.
None of these life hacks require paying someone a salary and everyone can do them — there are likely other, better ways to detox in this hyper-connected world than our suggestions. These little moments of clarity might not bring you the same amount of enlightenment as Thurston found after his experiment, but there are ways to find harmony in a connected world that don't involve outsourcing our tech.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.