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Digital detox; or is it more a case of digital balance? Finding a healthy balance in day-to-day digital life

Digital tools can make life a lot easier in many areas. But things can become difficult if we give electronic devices too much of a free rein. Healthy boundaries are what's needed.

For many of us, digital processes and electronic devices have become a natural part of our everyday life. Once you have taken the plunge and know when and where to use which device, which software and which platform can and should be used, the next question to arise is: how can I limit my involvement with the digital world if I need to? And how do I recognise this need?

Start with a digital detox…

The digital age has enriched our lives with many new terms. By that I'm not referring to the names of many of the little games that can consume you for hours. I'm talking more about a backlash that has arisen that is concerned with educating us in healthy behaviour in our involvement with the digital world. One of the first trends seen in this regard was the 'digital detox'; this refers to completely abstaining from using any electronic gadget and staying away from the Internet. As this kind of behaviour would neither be sustainable nor feasible in our everyday life, it needs to be used as a short-term 'purge' – or to put it another way, 'digital fasting'. This can be more or less sustained for a limited period of time, with everyone else being made aware of it, and will certainly help you to focus on your own digital behaviour. However, it is not suitable as a permanent solution and it is no prescription for our increasingly digital day-to-day work.  A more promising approach is to consider achieving a better balance between the respective digital and analogue parts of our lives. Let's start with the bad news: you can only do this for yourself. But we can balance the bad news with the good news: there are a whole host of little tips and tricks that can help you.

 …to find digital balance

Ask yourself some difficult questions, and be honest with your answers: How many times a day do I automatically reach for my smartphone? Have I got my mobile phone/computer set up so that I am immediately informed of incoming e-mails/messages? Do I spend most of my free time in front of a screen? Do I look at the screen of my mobile device even when I'm walking around? And is my e-mail inbox the last thing I look at before I go to sleep? Hand on heart, I catch myself doing these things time and time again, although I would fiercely deny it. We are human after all. However, if you honestly recognise that you sometimes fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour, you can make a big difference with some small changes. This year's Secretary's Congress at TU Wien came up with some great suggestions on how to do this. Various strategies to train your memory might perhaps be a good alternative to setting reminders on your mobile phone. I personally love my paper diary, which I can also use to make notes. No digital reminder can give me the satisfaction I feel when I cross something off my to-do list. Old-fashioned habits can also become entrenched in everyday digital life. However, one particularly important message is that we should incorporate as much conscious movement as possible into our everyday digital life. With simple balancing exercises, you can get away from staring at your screen. And you can also make your journey to work a little different by getting off the bus or train one stop earlier (or later) and looking around you as you walk the rest of the way. Or, when you're on the bus, stare out of the window instead of at your mobile phone.

You will see that these little things don't contradict our digital life; in fact, they can enrich it tremendously.

Perhaps you have your own tips and tricks that enrich your digital life. Share them with me! That way, we can work together to create a 'survival guide' for the digital world! Just go to the .digital blog page in the TU coLAB, opens an external URL in a new window and leave a comment in the box below.