Want to Be a Better Marketer? Challenge Yourself to a Device Detox

Right now, we’re more connected than we’ve ever been in human history. We can surf the web with our voices. Our refrigerators can text us. Our water bottles can email us when it’s time to hydrate. We’re constantly exposed to the joys (and horrors) of our global community. It’s… a lot. For our younger generations, it’s totally normal. They’ve never lived in a world without the internet.

As marketers, this means we have more clutter to cut through. It’s no longer about an inbox full of unread messages. It’s about Facebook messages and texts from brands. It’s about marketing messaging baked into editorial content. It’s about relentless push notifications. It’s about ads on videos — and videos that are secretly ads.

To stand out, marketing has to be authentic, interesting, and distributed in the right places. Easier said than done. This is an evolving, exhilarating process.

Are you too connected?

To stay on top of your game, you may be tempted to dial in and read every new post, watch every new video, subscribe to all the top podcasts. But at what point does that contribute to information overload? At what point do you stop thinking for yourself?

Even a sponge can become oversaturated. It’s critical, especially at this stage in our cultural evolution, to strike a balance between always learning and learning way too much. To tap into your own intuition and creativity, consider a device detox.

Detoxing is so hot right now. It’s no wonder why. We’re bloated with unhealthy food, with a glut of upsetting news, with a flood of expectations.

Purge your digital demons

Detoxing is so hot right now. It’s no wonder why. We’re bloated with unhealthy food, with a glut of upsetting news, with a flood of expectations. As a result, we grasp at easy fixes — as if the right cocktail of juice and cayenne pepper might erase the effects of years of stress.

There’s nothing wrong with recognizing a need to detox, whatever that means to you personally. A device detox won’t cleanse your colon, but it can make your brain more regular. It can open your mind to the creativity necessary not only to be a great marketer, but to be a good citizen of the world.

Step away from the phone

So, while you’re welcome to detox with a salt lamp or a bitter tea, you should also examine your connectivity. In short: put away your phone.

Get a twinge of anxiety?

That’s not uncommon. The average American adult spends around four hours a day on their phone. Even those of us who didn’t have mobile phones until our 20s can no longer imagine going on a drive without our phones or — in many cases — going to sleep without our phones beside us. With a decline in landlines, that phone is the only way someone can reach us if “something happens.” And sure, maybe you need it nearby, but do you need to check your email before bed? Do you need to check your email in the morning before you brush your teeth?

Start with a good, hard look at your habits

To start a device detox, evaluate how often you engage with digital media via all of your devices. You’re probably not stressing out about ebooks on your Kindle, but you may be overly dialed in to LinkedIn groups. Be honest with yourself about how you feel when you engage. Are you actually relieved when you check your work email outside of work, or do you tense up? Does any concrete good come from logging on to social media from your bed?

Now set limits. (And stick to them.) No exceptions.

Push through the pain

Last month, on a cruise, I had to put my phone in airplane mode for over 48 hours. I lost contact with the real world entirely. No news. No texts. No twitter. No emails. No phone calls. No internet whatsoever. There’s no way I could have achieved that without being literally stuck on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic. I know this because despite having zero connectivity, I compulsively and mindlessly opened various apps throughout the first day.

I worked through panic, frustration, and eventually… relief. When it came time to turn airplane mode off and face the music of my inbox, dread crept through me. Finally, I had a clear view of my relationship with connectivity. And it wasn’t healthy.

Set reasonable limits and goals

While you likely can’t go entirely offline for 48 hours, you CAN set achievable limits that give you more time to sit with your own thoughts. We cannot reflect and create when we’re sifting through a blizzard of messages and expectations. When we unplug, we’re only dialed in to our own thoughts and the organic conversations that happen in our closer circles. You have inherent wisdom that you cannot hear when you’re prioritizing what your aunt is doing on Facebook or what the top marketer in your industry thinks you should be doing. (Or what you think you should be doing because others have been successful at it.)

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Try your own version of a device detox

Give a device detox a try. Do it on your terms. Maybe that means no phones at mealtime. Maybe it means putting your phone in a drawer at 6pm. Maybe it means entirely leaving certain social networks or putting space on your calendar to engage in mindful learning and research and sticking to those set time. If you need your computer to work but want better focus, try apps like StayFocusd, which shut down time-sucking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

See what happens when you’re left with your own thoughts. You may find yourself confronting strengths you couldn’t identify before, or issues you were able to drown out. You will find yourself paying more attention to the marketing messages hurled your way. You will find that when you’re struggling with boredom or silence or loneliness, that your brain engages in thought patterns you thought you’d lost — patterns that can drive new, creative ideas and clever solutions.

Let your brain breathe

To be a better marketer, you have to let yourself breathe and identify the connections that mean the most to us. The connections that help us feel safer, help us grow as humans, help us develop deeper relationships. Start with your own version of a detox and see how things go. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised once you make it through the initial withdrawal.

What are you waiting for?