How to do a digital detox

Frazzled by constant demands or exhausted by information overload? A digital detox could be just what you need …


Detox is a word we often associate with New Year. During the January hangover from the December before, we cut out all that is bad for us, and latch on to the latest detox trends.

But while the idea of detox is familiar to many of us in terms of health, it can also be useful in a slightly different guise – as a digital detox.

Just like a health detox, the aim of a digital detox is to improve your overall wellbeing.

And what better time to try this than the ‘second new year’ of September? It could make all the difference to your stress levels in the season ahead.

So how do you go about it?

A digital detox means you switch off your smartphone, laptop, tablet, and any other digital devices for a certain length of time.

While the idea of this may fill you with dread, the best evidence of the benefits of a digital detox come from trying it yourself.

Once you do, the chances are you’ll feel calmer, less stressed, and able to think clearly at last. No beeping, no pinging, and no incessant demands – for however long you choose.

This gives you chance to focus on what you want to do, be that properly paying attention as you spend time with people you care about, or pursuing your dreams and goals.

So if you’re interested in doing a digital detox, how long should you switch off for?

How long does a digital detox need to be?

To get the maximum benefit from a digital detox, you should switch off for 72 hours.

Don’t panic. We wouldn’t suggest you start with this – a full 72-hour detox takes some building up to and planning.

There are other, gradual steps you can take first.

Press the off button on your smartphone. How does it feel? See if you can keep everything switched off for 15 minutes. Next time, aim for half an hour, then an hour.

Many people will experience withdrawal symptoms when they first switch off. These symptoms vary from person to person, but may include feeling disconnected, bored, or worrying that you are missing out.

These feelings will gradually pass.

Once you’re ready to aim for a more lengthy digital detox, why not aim to switch off for a full 24 hours? This is long enough to notice benefits. Repeating a 24-hour detox every so often is a great way to recharge.

A good time for a digital detox is the weekend. Could you, for example, switch off on a Friday evening until a Saturday evening? Or press the off button for the whole of Sunday? Decide what works for you.

Another ideal time to do a digital detox (and to try an even longer spell switched off) is while on holiday. One key to a successful detox is making sure you have other activities to fill your time, and a holiday is a great opportunity for this.

If you’re ready to do a digital detox, then why not give it a try …

If you want more advice or support to help you achieve a digital detox, get in touch with us to book a one-to-one digital detox session.

– Frances Booth is author of The Distraction Trap and an expert in digital detox. She works with companies and individuals on productivity, digital distraction and digital health.

© Frances Booth