Dear journalists and PR pros, digital detox to save your career
Detox! No smartphone necessary here.
A digital detox is essential for anyone in the digital space. Seems impossible? It’s not. Here are a few steps to take one, from an overly connected connector.
5 a.m. My alarm goes off and the most serious relationship in my life begins – with my iPhone. An iRing would be much more fitting than an Apple Watch for me, for I am in “complicated” relationship with my smartphone.
I’m a journalist turned digital producer turned strategist/project manager so I know the need to be connected. It’s a tickle on my neck, an itch on a phantom limb, a “forgotten” to-do item that is never actually forgotten.
Gone are the days of two phones, because who really has the mental capacity to remember to bring two phones anyway? We’re in a digital age, an age where we not only have to work but also have to work to stay relevant personally in order to succeed professionally. It’s a lot of sharing, a lot of connecting… A LOT.
How do you stop? You take a digital detox.
I generally do digital detoxes when I’m going out of the country and on a real vacation. In March, I booked two vacations – one to Cancun and one to Miami. They were both weekend trips, meant to refresh my mind and give me time to look up and smell the sea air.
Now that we’re officially in “summer-mode,” it’s actually easy to dedicate time to a digital detox AND it’s essential.
For my Cancun trip, I took both my work and personal email off my phone, limited my texting, limited my social shares and left my phone in my room for long periods of time. In Miami, I left my personal email on my phone and actually noticed a difference! In Cancun, I was relaxed, read books, caught up on articles I stored in my Pocket in 2013 (yes, this is a FACT) and took the time to really rest my mind and, in doing so, came back with fresh ideas, a fresh perspective and a restored soul. In Miami, I didn’t feel as refreshed when I came back and I truly believe that’s because I stayed connected in ways I shouldn’t have.
Sometimes, you can’t help it. Sometimes you have to stay connected on vacation or on a weekend, but you can carve out the time.
My favorite phrase is “we have the time we choose to make” – block the weekend on your calendar and take. the. time.
Find Your Trigger
As soon as I can’t find peace writing in the early hours of the morning, with the East River sunrise bouncing off the chrome and glass of the city I call home, I know I need a digital detox. As someone who grew up on the “right side of the tech boom” (native enough to be successful but not so native that I can’t remember dial-up), I cherish a paper newspaper and respect the need for connectivity.
When I started in this business, I was a local reporter with an online property to manage – all on my own, two weeks out of school. It was intense! I learned when to say I needed a break… and for me, that’s when I can’t write. So know your trigger and pay attention to it.
Plan, Plan, Plan!
Get out your calendar. Block two-three days in June to take off. And I mean O F F. Take a Friday off or a Monday and make sure you’re disconnected. Schedule all of your posts in advance (even personal if that will help you!), make sure all of your sources, clients and co-workers know you’re going off the grid, plan a trip to a beach or park, schedule some gym classes and lunches… maybe a massage or two. Create a staycation (or, if you’re lucky, get out of town… and make it an international trip!) that revolves around getting your digital mojo back by disconnecting.
Walk the Talk
Once the week of your weekend of #digitaldetox arrives, get ready because that’s when the real work begins!
Start the week by letting everyone who emails you that you’ll be away for the weekend. Ask a co-worker to be on your out of the office emails and then setup a system for personal emails.
Share an update across your social platforms talking about your digital detox to hold yourself accountable.
Make sure all your work is done and then, once you’re done with all of your work for the night, take email off your phone and hide the Mail icon in a folder or on any screen except the home screen. Turn off badge-app icons for text messages and social network apps and let the digital detox bliss begin!
Buy a magazine. Get a book. Spend three hours reading in the park. Leave your phone in the room.
Do whatever you need to do to be “free.”
The first day is hard, but I promise it gets easier. The reward is worth it – your boss will be happy when you come back refreshed, your coworkers won’t mind as long as you return the favor and, most important of all, you’ll keep your sanity to have a long and successful career.
Have any tips for taking a digital detox? Leave them in the comments below!
Victoria Reitano is a journalist or, as she likes to say, a giornalista. By day, she is a digital producer in New York City. All other hours, she's a writer and social media producer who offers advice to journalists and individuals about how to navigate social media networks and the "big, bad Web." She has served as a Digital Producer on "LIVE with Kelly and Michael," "bethenny" and at "The Meredith Vieira Show." She is currently a Creative Digital Producer at PMK*BNC's Vowel Digital Agency.
Photo: Sun hat via Shutterstock