digital-detoxWhen did the addiction begin?

April 2006 (although I wasn’t aware of it at the time). It was the time my first startup project – Tribewanted – took off. We had just shared the idea of forming an online community to support  the development of an on-island (Vorovoro in Fiji) eco-tourism project. The Metro newspaper mentioned us and then my relatively quiet inbox went bananas.

How did it feel?

Amazing. People were signing-up (and paying) in droves to join the tribe. Every paypal notification was like a shot of something good into the bloodstream. Every ‘woo-yeah’ note of excitement, a kicker, a high, an endorphin rush.

What happened next?

Well, it kind of spiraled. More members, more excitement and then the questions and challenges came…not in a great flood, but certainly a growing swell, and I started to notice that I’d be spending almost all my time tapping away at my keyboard, managing the growth, responding to the questions. I struggled to find time to eat, let alone exercise, reflect on what was happening or hang-out with friends and family.

Has anything changed since then?

Well Tribewanted grew and slowed and grew again. And the years went by. And other projects happened. And facebook and twitter happened. And life happened. But, some of those early online habits (and ongoing challenges with the way I work online) have never really gone away:

1. The futile journey to the lost city of ‘Inbox Zero’

Every-time a note pops up (gbox, twitbox, facebox…wherever) it often feels like it doesn’t matter how big the sand castle is we’re building the tide will swallow it. When traveling, the cliche goes that the journey is the destination. In gmail, the journey often feels like we’re trying to get to Mordor while carrying about 25 rings.

I’ve fought the gmail orcs with some success with weapons like sanebox (instead of an insane box) and unroll (simplify your subscriptions) but I need something more…something that changes my habits.

2. The distraction trap: Tweetdeck & Hootsuite you bastards!

Can I get to the end of this blog without clicking on another browser. Seems not…my wife just asked me the surname of someone. I checked on facebook and I’m pulled into more notifications including one titled ‘what happened to Downtime?’ (I’m being distracted by an article talking about distraction whilst writing about distraction – its a post-modern ironic mess)… damn, 5 more minutes gone.

3. Binge Browsing Vs Serendipitous Surfing

And as a result of the weariness of the journey to inbox zero and the distraction trap…I find it difficult to differentiate between binging on online content like a never-ending conveyer belt of fast-food that just looks and smells so good that I just don’t know what might come out of the kitchen next, so I’ll hang around a little longer AND surfing the wonderful web and discovering some of my favorite things in the world.

I’ve tried plugins like Momentum and it helps, but only a little. I want to be more focused and have as healthy a tech diet as I do with the food I eat.

So what now?

Well I’ve been talking about this with friends for a while. More than half of me still feels like tech  has set us free. Really. The people, projects, ideas and experiences I’ve had since April 2006 have been phenomenal. But I think I’ve compromised too much and given the screen too much attention. So, now I’m proposing to myself, my friends and anyone else who wants to join me to actively takes step to reclaim control of our tech tools. For that’s what they are – tools for us to use to better our lives, to go on great adventures and to change the world.

I’m going to start small. I’ve taken a pledge, to take 24 hour ‘e-fasts’ (email fasts) at least once a week. Zero email. A digital detox. And in that time I will focus on projects (yes, still work) and people that don’t come in the form of lists or notifications. I hope this becomes a habit. I’m starting my first deliberate e-fast now – Midday on Tuesday 31st December 2013. Why don’t you join me in hibernating in 2014?