MINDSET

I Went On A Weekend-Long Digital Detox—Here’s What Happened

By Chris Roussos

A little over nine months ago, I began this journey with our 24Life editorial team, taking part in monthly challenges to explore and experiment with a variety of innovative activities, experiences, wellness trends and workouts—each inspired by thinking of new ways to live out our four-pillar philosophy of health (Mindset, Movement, Nourishment and Regeneration).   

Some of these activities have been uncomfortable, some downright strange, some a total blast and some very enlightening. My mantra is “Game On!” but my enthusiasm was slightly tempered by doubts when I learned challenge this month was a two-day digital detox—no phone, no computer, no iPad, no TV, no tracking wearables, no Alexa, no Audible! Nada. What’s more, this detox was to take place during a high-stakes month, when communication was required across all aspects of my life.

I am also a steadfast believer that the human mind is incredibly powerful, and understand that unplugging can make us capable of so much more creativity, spirituality, healing and understanding. I could have opted for a weekend at an official digital retreat, such as those offered by Digital Detox Retreats, But I was curious to discover how I would manage the daily demands of professional and personal life, so I chose to create my own program and schedule.

Benefits

A digital detox is a form of mental hygiene. It helps develop awareness, reestablish boundaries and reset habits that serve the person as a whole. Digital addiction (DA) is an emergent area of research, and many past and current studies explore the possibility that digital media can encourage people to be obsessive, excessive, compulsive, impulsive and worse. Digital addiction has been shown in many cases to be correlated with depression, anxiety, poor health choices, loneliness, postural decline, physical pain, eye strain, reduced productivity, diminished learning outcomes and in severe cases aggression and suicide ideation. The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction (CITA) led by Dr. David Greenfield maintains an excellent list of digital tech research to explore as does Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, author of the new book Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids – and How to Break the Trance.

How to do a digital detox

The first step to my detox was understanding my motivation. What is the intent behind your desire to unplug? Is it a challenge, or are you noticing the effects of digital distraction on your health, your happiness and your contribution in the world? I found this short list of reasons to do a digital detox quite insightful and inspiring before I started the program.

Beyond the inspiration, the key to success is to make a clear commitment and then to crowd out the impulse to pick up the device with other high-value activities. I used this time to reconfirm my commitment to my health, to my family and my organization, and let that guide my schedule.

Here are highlights from my two-day digital detox.

Day 1: Saturday

5:00 a.m. – Morning wake-up with my two dogs; drink water and coffee
5:30 -8:00 a.m. – Morning workout, swim practice, run, bike, row and pull-ups
8:00 – a.m. – Morning shake (very green with base of kale, spinach and broccoli…)
8:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Review of the last week and printed notes of presentations and meeting notes
10:30 – 11:30 a.m. – Fun GX24 class at our Dallas Club
11:30 – 12:00 p.m. – Shower and prep for the day
12:00 – 1:30 p.m. – Lunch with my wife
1:30 – 3:30 p.m. – Completed my “Honey Do” List
3:30 – 5:30 p.m. – Spent time working on an upcoming work/board presentation using pen, paper and Post-It notes (reminded me of study days at Harvard Business School)
3:30 – 5:00 p.m. – Workout #2, 10 mile run, endurance training and mobility (I am prepping for an Everest event, Marine Corp Marathon and Spartan Race), this was challenging, since I typically enjoy listening to Audible books while working out
5:30 – 6:00 p.m. – Shower and prep for the evening
6:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Dinner with the family (my value add is cleaning up…)
7:00 – 9:00 p.m. – Spend time with the family and take a walk with my wife and dogs
9:30 – 9:30 p.m. – Relaxed reading, started a new book; wrote in journal for this exercise
9:30 p.m. – Check in with kids, kiss goodnight and bedtime

Day 2: Sunday

6:00 a.m. – Morning wake-up and run with our two dogs; drink water and coffee
8:00 – 9:30 a.m. – Morning workout, swim practice, row and pull-ups
9:30 – 10 a.m. – Morning shake
10:00 – 10:30 a.m. – Shower and prep for the day
10:30 – 2:30 p.m. – Time with family
2:30 – 4:00 p.m. – Block time to review business reports, read HBR (Harvard Business Review magazine) and finished board presentations; drafted notes and questions for my team regarding new strategy for new initiatives
4:00 – 5 p.m. – Spend time with family
5:00 – 5:45 p.m. – Bike ride with my wife followed by a written map and review of my training regimen for upcoming events
5:45 – 6:00 p.m. – Shower and prep for the evening
6:00 – 7 p.m. – Spend time hanging out with my daughter catching up
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Delicious dinner at home with the family and cleanup
8:00 – 9:00 p.m. – Review of week ahead; personal, business and team goals and meeting prep for upcoming week
9:00 – 9:45 p.m. – Spend time with the family, roll out my back, relaxed reading, wrote in journal for this exercise.
9:45 p.m. – Check in with kids, kiss good night and bedtime

In case of emergency

One excuse we often use for tethering ourselves to our devices is that we need to be available for emergencies. This is a compelling reason—but how often do you actually field a call or email for a true emergency?  Statistically speaking, the chances of an urgent matter requiring your immediate attention is minimal.

Put that fear to rest by appointing someone close to you to be your digital envoy. My wife took this role for me during this weekend—albeit, she did not have to field any messages on my behalf. I was not surprised that there were no urgent calls, I’ve got a great Team and they lead from the front handling most things.  Empower whomever needs to know how to reach out to your messenger if there is an urgent matter and they must get in touch with you. Give out a landline number (if you have one) for your home and explain when you’re planning to be available. Communication occurred before we had smartphones and it is surprisingly still available means to connect.

Insights

My key insight didn’t come during my weekend–it came on Monday, as I picked up multiple messages, emails and notifications to address. Scanning them, it was obvious to me how many of them really were not crucial for me to address on the weekend. However, had I let them, they would have crept into my time and my mind and likely led to emails, searches and calls that were not vital to the important tasks at hand.

As the week began, I was determined to maintain digital boundaries, to designate places, times and situations where my phone really didn’t belong. It sparked a great conversation for my family about limiting screen to improve sleep and relationships.  I’m also keen to have the conversation about periodic, screen-free times at work, and to partner with our HR Team to share and educate our employees as to the benefits.

Recommendations

Plan for it. Going cold turkey without a plan will feel unnecessarily challenging, but like anything, once you put your mind to it and create a plan, you set yourself up to succeed. Block time each day to unplug from your devices and plug into your own mind and life. The world and all of your critical business will be waiting for you, and you just might bring clearer perspective after these short breaks

Get support. It’s not necessary to announce your digital detox with a social media post; however, do let those who communicate with you on a regular basis know about it, so they can plan accordingly. My team knew the digital detox was planned and saved all my calls and emails for Monday morning.

I now firmly believe that letting go of the “always available” and “always connected” mindset is key to personal development. Digital connection is a modern convenience that can radically boost our productivity and life satisfaction if we use it consciously—and keep both eyes focused on the task at hand, the person in front of us, our families/friends or the opportunity to serve.

Video credit: Journey Box Media, Shutterstock
Photo credit: encierro, Adobe Stock; Death to Stock; Courtesy Chris Roussos; Death to Stock

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Author

Chris Roussos

Chris Roussos is CEO of 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. and leads the company in changing lives through fitness. He has served as CEO, President or COO for healthcare services companies for more than 15 years, including Epic Health Services, the first-ever pediatric continuum of care for medically fragile children; Harden Healthcare, a post-acute healthcare services company; and Orthodontic Centers of America (OCA). Roussos previously held management positons at PepsiCo and Rubbermaid, and served for 11 years in the U.S. Army.

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