You Don’t Have to Unplug to Manage Digital Burnout
For remote workers, it’s impossible to unplug because your livelihood depends on it.
In 2019, I experienced the heaviest social media usage of my career. I also spent a lot of time on my computer for work. Many years ago, I recovered from programmer’s digital burnout and PTSD from work-related stress, I honestly thought I could handle a case of digital burnout. But, I was wrong. Like me, if you suspect you have hyper-focus from ADHD, then it will be even harder to recover from digital burnout.
It all started in April 2019, when I started to spend more time on social media channels to promote my articles, I was carried away by the convenience of instant conversation. I was also rewarded for promotions every single day. At the time, I was also looking for social interactions. I joined writer’s groups to make friends and trade strategies on freelance writing.
Soon, I was hooked.
I started to spend a lot of time on my phone because “work” had to be done. I also spent a lot of time talking to writer friends online. In the beginning, this was helpful. But, soon, it started to get in the way of my daily life.
We all have a fixed amount of attention.
When I stopped engaging in everyday social interactions with people around me in favor of people online, I knew that I had a problem.
When my anxiety worsened with each hour I spent online, I knew that I needed to turn off all the devices.
For a remote worker like me, it’s impossible to unplug completely from social media. You are attached to it for work. Your work arrives in your email box. You use social media and your computer to do your job.
You don’t have the luxury to unplug eight hours a day.
Instead of unplugging completely, I started to use social media differently. In the digital age, you need a digital plan to be able to function with focused attention on everything that you do in life.
Reclaiming this “focused attention” is not easy but it’s completely possible.
When you use social media for the right purposes, it becomes exponentially enjoyable.
Log on to Post
In October 2019, I started to post less on social media. I reviewed all of my social media usage. Every time I publish an article, I use the next 30 minutes to schedule all my articles on social media accounts. Then, I simply log off.
Once in a while, I log on to engage in social media groups, but that is only when I have completed everything else that I need to do for work.
Go Out Everyday
For someone with hyper-focus, it’s often difficult for me to stop working. For me, the computer screen is not only addictive, but it also overloads my brain. I must go out every single day.
These days, I make up errands to go on. Having a child makes it easy to think of fun places to go with my child. But, even when my child wants to stay in, I make up an excuse to go to the library or the supermarket.
Setting Up Alerts
Recently, I started to set up news alerts, work session alerts, meeting alerts, and social media alert periods to manage my digital life. I aim to spend minimum amount of work hours online.
Ideally, here’s how much time I spend on my digital devices:
- 4 to 6 hours working on my computer
- 2 hours for interviews and meetings
- 30 minutes for social media and promotions
- 1-hour checking work email and responding to them
Recently, I’ve found that legitimate work on my computer takes the most time. That will not change. But at least I’m also researching and reading online instead of going on social media.
Most of the work I do requires a computer. But, the good thing about writing is that I can do it over my phone too. This has allowed me to write outlines or short 15 minute sessions that will allow me to move away from the computer.
Interviews and meetings can always be done on my phone instead of on my computer. That’s a good way to steal time away from my computer.
In my house, we don’t have a TV. If we watch a movie, it’s usually on my son’s Kindle. It may not be the greatest experience. But, it saves both of our attention. We also watch youtube children’s videos on my computer.
For a while last year, I had to work long days, my son spent more time on his digital device. Like me, he was burned out. He had increased anxiety.
Nowadays, I work mostly overnight (4 to 6 hours). This way, I can spend at least a half a day with my son, hanging out and doing preschool activities.
Reading Books and Not Digital Books
Recently, because of financial issues, I’ve started to borrow books from the library instead of buying e-books. I love it. Holding the book in my hand feels great.
I pay more attention to the words if I’m reading from a physical book. The words on the page is a lot more memorable.
Don’t get me wrong, I still read a lot online. But, mostly I read for research and it’s partly my process of writing an article.
Being Present Means That I Give My Attention
Being present is difficult for me in general. Often, I’m thinking about work when I am on my “off” time. It’s unavoidable. The key here is to remind myself that being present means that I give what I am doing currently my proper attention.
If I’m tying my son’s shoelaces, I will focus on the shoe, my son, and this activity at hand.
It’s difficult to shift focus, but if you do it throughout the day then it gets easier.
Your depth of focus will feel more natural.
Appreciation for Social Interactions
What are your social interactions like? Do you dread social interactions? I love social interactions. I’m extroverted. When I replaced social interactions offline with social interactions online, I’m not satisfied. I don’t feel that these social interactions are fulfilling. These interactions make me think that I’m interacting with someone’s digital assistant and not themselves.
I appreciate genuine social interactions from people in either my work or my social interactions a lot more now. Even when these social interactions make me feel like this person’s talking to me because someone told them to, I still appreciate the time they spent in interacting with me.
Writing Poetry By Hand or Drawing
Lately, I have started to write or draw by hand again. I find the way that I use my hand when I’m holding a pen or pencil is soothing. It unleashes a part of my creativity.
Holding a drawing pad and letting my pen center my attention is another way I reclaim my attention. It’s also a good way to engage my child in drawing and using his fingers to write. Drawing allows my mind to trace shapes. It’s almost like yoga for my mind.
In the digital age, it’s all about how to manage your life. There’s a tendency to binge on social media, technology, and letting devices augment your reality. But, if you unplug strategically, you can work around that to reclaim your attention and save it for when you need it.
When I can dance carefree with my son to the sound of music that we make together instead of tunes played from my iPhone, something magical happens at this moment.