Diary of a Digital Detoxer: Louise Pascale

Recently I interviewed Louise Pascale, and when she told me she was undertaking a digital detox I wanted to know more. As many of us wake up to our phones, and finish the day staring at a screen –  the idea of functioning without digital technology seems like a daunting and difficult task. As you will find out, Louise did successfully survive (and even felt a sense of calm from completing her goal) and when you have finished reading about the detox in Louise’s own words below, make sure you check out her blog Lady Stringer.

The decision to take a digital detox was a sudden one for me and I thank a dear colleague for giving me the idea.

It was the week before Christmas and I was busy working away tying up the loose ends of 2015 before everyone drops off the radar for a few weeks. My colleague Tracey Spicer is coming to Adelaide to run media training workshops and I was in the thick of organising it all.

When I realised that flight times and workshop times were overlapping I wanted to talk to her to discuss how we could work around it. I sent her a text asking for a conference call only to receive no response, an hour went by and still no response. This was unlike Tracey – she was always connected. Then I suddenly realised I had not read a tweet from her in quite a while.

I jumped online to discover about a week earlier she had tweeted that she was going on a digital detox and would be back after the New Year.

How could she?!
Didn’t she realise we had two days of workshops to organize in just over a month?!

And that’s when it hit me. Tracey has every right to go off the grid, and by my reaction to it I think it’s time I did too.

But where do you start with a digital detox? I’ve never done anything like this before. Should I look up the top 10 rules for a successful digital detox?

Well if there is anything I have learnt after all these years it’s following someone else’s rules on taking care of yourself will only set yourself up to fail. You know yourself best so make up your own ‘rules’ Louise. But only with one condition, if you break any of them, remember it’s ok.

However before I could start with my own ‘rules’ I had to work out what my boundaries were, so the first thing I did was a digital audit. I began by taking time out to start examining how I was using digital technology and here is what I came up with.

This is a key form of communication for me but for business not my personal life. I can be on it for 1-2 hours a day easily.

Text Messages
I’m big on sending a text message rather than making a five to ten minute phone call. But this is more for my personal life rather than business.

Phone calls
I use my phone to make calls that are mainly professional and I would do around half a dozen in a day.

Social Media
I’m a news junkie and love my Twitter it’s the first thing I look at any given day and the last thing I check before bed. Needless to say there are countless times throughout the day I get lost in it for up to 15 minutes at a time. My only other platforms are Facebook and LinkedIn but I only check them every few days.

Everyday Apps
I have apps I use for a range of things from checking the weather to my banking and I use them throughout the day on a needs be basis.

The Internet
Well Google is my right arm most days, how else do I get instant information?
I could be on Google up to 20 times a day, however it does depend on what I’m doing. On the weekend I’m only on it for shopping compared to a weekday when I’m constantly using it for work.

When I sat back and looked at this I found it quite overwhelming. How could I digital detox when technology is so integral to my life?

And then I thought about which part of my life it is so integral to and realised it was mainly my working life. So I decided I would do my digital detox while on holidays, it would be easier to manage. I was going to do it the week I was at the family’s beach house where the coverage was rubbish and there was a landline people could find me if they really needed me.

Once I made this decision I then went back over my audit and addressed each of the ways I used technology.

Well it is mainly for work so I just put out an ‘out of office’ message on and with it make sure my clients had a back up to contact if it was an emergency. For my company it was my partner for Radio Adelaide it was my Executive Producer.

Text Messages
I can’t put an out of office on those but since I sent out more than I received. If it was urgent then whoever is trying to find me would call anyway and get my ‘off the grid’ voice message.

Phone Calls
My voice message would change to say that I was on holidays and out of reach but if it was an emergency they would get my partner’s number.

Social Media
This would be a hard one to stay away from but a simple message out to my friends and followers will let them know I’m offline for a while. I don’t think they’ll mind at all.
As for me, well I may have to be old fashioned and buy a newspaper or magazine for my news fix, there is still the ol’ 6pm news bulletin. I’ll also stock up on those books I never made time for because I’m always on Twitter!

Everyday Apps
Wow, what was life like without an app? Well I would soon find out.
Now I would have to remember what banking at an ATM felt like and getting my weather update from a news bulletin once or twice a day. Woah!

The Internet
Again, how did we find information before Google?
I’m about to find out……

Once I had all this in place it was time for my digital detox. Ready. Set. Go!

Lou & Chris Photobooth copy
(Louise with her partner Christopher Houghton)

Day 1
Well got off to a rocky start. Phone did not get switched off until after lunch. Despite all my planning I was still coordinating play dates and arrangements for the beach house throughout the morning. And of course I wanted to squeeze in one last weather update on the app to make sure I’ve packed everything. Then of course there was the obligatory signing off of social media  for 10 days. Once it was switched off I did have an urge to jump on Twitter late in the afternoon but decided to give myself a pedicure instead.

Day 2
Caught up on 6 weeks worth of The Saturday Paper’s that had been accumulating by my bed. I made two observations. One, when I’m not reading news headlines and stories throughout the day on social media I have a bigger appetite for in depth articles. And two I have to fight the urge to tweet my opinion on everything I read.

Day 3
Oh wow, David Bowie died today. News came thru just before the 6pm TV news bulletin so there was no decent tribute to him. I did however have no great desire to jump on Twitter and #vale. While that is a good sign I did crave losing myself in Bowie clips on YouTube.

Day 4
Well the itch to pick up my phone is fading but I’m still craving regular doses of news. Resorted to reading a copy of The Advertiser cover to cover that was lying around. This may not end well. I did bring the complete works of Hunter S Thompson it may be news 40 years old but at least it’s the Rolling Stones Magazine.

Day 5
I’m compiling recipes from a cook book and writing my shopping lists on pads how old school. I realised how pervasive apps are in my life, ordinarily this would all be done on my phone. I also had to use a paper map today to visit a friend. Ended up walking the long way to get to there but that’s ok when you’ve got nothing but time. On a more personal note, I am so much more present for my son right now, we are talking more and finding excuses to play card and board games.

Day 6
Found a 500 piece jig saw today, who needs colouring in books?!
On a serious note my partner called today to discuss an offer he received that would have an impact on our year. He noted how calm I was talking through all the stress we may face. I now think I know what mindfulness feels like.

Day 7
Today I’m expecting people to arrive to spend the weekend with us. I have no idea what time they’ll come so I’m left hanging around the house. I’m sure we’ll survive but this is really becoming a lesson in letting go and not getting hung up on trying to control everything.

Day 8
Well friends are now at the beach house with us and while the conversation and food is great I’m getting frustrated with people checking their phones for messages and mobile phones ringing. Wow, I don’t think I recognise this person I’ve become.

Day 9
Well it’s time to go home and I keep getting distracted by the thought of turning my phone on again. I’m scared my message bank will be full of messages and texts. And let’s not mention the emails! I think I’ll let myself sleep easy and check them after my show in the morning.

Well the detox is over and I honestly do not recognise myself. This amazing sense of calm that is over me feels foreign. My mind is settled and I’m fresh for a new year of work, best of all I sat at my optometrist this morning waiting for my appointment and had no urge to look at social media or news headlines on my phone while I wait.

Taking 10 days out to do a digital detox does feel like luxury these days. But I think if I can squeeze it in to a long weekend or a four-day break every now and again I should be fine until my next big break.

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