How to do a digital detox for the new year

Updated on January 9 2018

How often do you catch yourself subconsciously opening up Instagram to check how many likes your new selfie got? Or maybe everytime you hear a ‘ding’, you get PTSD from those late night emergency emails your boss sends you. If you can relate to all this, maybe it’s time to take a digital detox before the peak season at work starts this year and everyone comes back to town from their year-end vacations.

And no, we’re not talking about a complete break from technology. For those who seek a respite from all-things-electronic, there are places that offer that, like the Westin Paris that has a programme that lets you deposit all your gadgets at the front desk before checking in. But we’re not asking you to be a shaman and go into a total phase of zen.

Today, we’re going to teach you how to declutter your digital footprint in our efforts to help you optimise your life (see our how-to guide to tidying up your home). There are many ways to do this, and we aren’t going to make you download more things just to delete those useless apps that you’ve barely opened since you installed them onto your phone.

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Picture this: zero unread emails, no toxic friends on your feed, and a clearer mind going into the new year. You’ll feel more recharged and rearing to get things up and running.

But before you proceed, you need to make sure to be brutal and decisive, because nostalgia can creep in like a parasite and make you second guess yourself. 2018 is not the year for indecisiveness. So read on for our guide to your much-needed digital detox.

Delete unnecessary apps and software

Everyday there are new listicles telling you what are the ‘Top 10 Best Apps to Download for 2018’. Thanks, but no thanks. What you want to be doing for a digital detox is to delete applications that you know you’d no longer be using.

No, you don’t need four media players (our top pick is VLC). No, you don’t need subscriptions to all those streaming websites (hello Netflix). Maybe concessions can be made for messaging applications, but try to keep it to a minimum of three (WhatsApp, Telegram, and WeChat).

This purging should be done for both your mobile devices and your computers, work and personal. Apple’s iOS 11 has a feature that automatically removes your unused apps, although it can be done manually as well. Windows users should navigate to ‘Control Panel’ to uninstall the junk software.

Unfriend and Unfollow

You know it’s time to hit that dreaded ‘Un-’ button when you take a look at someone’s latest post and roll your eyes. Maybe you were just keeping them around for the niceties, but if it’s common knowledge that the two of you aren’t on speaking terms anymore, why bother?

2018 should be the year that you channel your energy into the people you truly care about, or genuinely want to get back in touch with. Every update and post should be giving you joy and love, not grief and despair. So if someone’s latest pretentious comment about the state of current affairs in the world triggers your gag reflex, perhaps it’s time to take a break from that person and remove them from your life.

No, they won’t know that you unfriended or unfollowed them, and odds are that they won’t care too.

Turn off your notifications

We’re not asking you to mute all the incoming messages your partner sends daily, lest we subject you to their incessant questioning and potential wrath. But all mobile devices now have the option to let you configure your notifications so you only get what’s important to you.

Start with turning off push notifications for your social networks, the type that alerts you the moment someone tags you on Facebook. You might find yourself obsessively unlocking your phone to see if you have any recent interactions the first few days, but that’s normal. But soon, you’ll see that now you are the one in control of when you check your social media networks, putting you in the driver’s seat.

Update your security

2017 was plagued by a multitude of major security breaches that should be a cause for concern to the average tech user. And with more than 50% of the world using the top 25 most common passwords, it’s time you up your security game as a precaution, because your favourite social media network might be the next target hackers are looking to exploit.

While you don’t need to create a complicated password that you’ll forget the next day, just remember a few tricks to secure your accounts: don’t reuse passwords; a combination of phrases like ‘lovinglifestyleasia’ makes things harder to crack (that is not our password, FYI); and if your service allows, two-factor authentication makes sure you’re the one attempting to login.

Cull your inbox

A few unread emails can be sorted within less than an hour. But if you have tens of thousands of them waiting in your inbox, it can make things messy.

First, set aside some time to organise your email accounts, with the aim to work through the already-existing emails. This means that you should not be corresponding with others. Disconnect yourself from the internet if you have to.

Then, sort your emails by the sender, not chronologically. This lets you delete spam mails from the annoying shopping website in bulk.

Finally, be ruthless with the ‘Delete’ key. Don’t be a hoarder, especially with emails. If you do need to keep some, create a filing system by year or categories (like invoices, travel itineraries, and personal stuff) that can be colour coded.