Challenge Accepted, episode 2. Our intrepid host Michel Niknafs is ready for his next challenge – a tricky digital detox. What will happen when he ditches his smartphone?

We’re out and about in London. The British capital, one of the world’s most lively and exciting cities. The perfect place to switch off? Our host Michel thinks he’s up for the challenge – three entire days in London without his smartphone.

The search for authentic human interactions is not an easy one – on the London Underground, most people are staring at their screens. Michel decides to disarm this tough audience and face the challenge with old-school wit, charm and traditional tools like paper maps, a Polaroid camera – and one of London’s iconic red phone boxes.

So, how did Michel Niknafs fare on his urban adventure? Find out in the latest episode of Challenge Accepted:

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Ever thought about ditching your smartphone – or at least using it a lot less? The following ten digital detox steps should put you on the right track:

Trial run: mini detox

Changing your own habits is rarely easy – especially a full, 180-degree turnaround. So, why not start with a few baby steps? Switch off all smartphone notifications. Once your phone stops beeping and flashing, you’re less likely to check it all the time. Or define Wi-Fi free zones in your home, like the bedroom. Mission accomplished? Then you’re ready to tackle the next item on the list.

Switch off with digital detox: Smartphone off – relexation mode on.

No screens before bedtime

“Ah, just a few more minutes to wind down”, you tell yourself, swiping through your social media feeds. What you don’t realise: The screen’s blue light prompts your brain to stay alert, disrupting your precious rest and sleep. So, why not reach for a book instead – you know, the one that’s been waiting on your bedside table. Or listen to some soothing sounds that will put you to sleep … you will wake up more refreshed tomorrow, ready to tackle the new day.

Treat yourself

In the beginning, especially, it might be a good idea to replace the missing digital stimuli with other, pleasant sensory treats. Dig out that magazine you’ve been meaning to read or reward yourself with a laid-back afternoon in the park. You will notice how the calm slowly seeps into your life – and how your hand reaches for the smartphone far less often.

Without a smartphone, you’ll see the city with new eyes.
How about a polaroid camera for selfies and snapshots?

Set some goals

We’re always connected, wherever we go. Most of us wouldn’t even be able to do our work without a laptop or smartphone. Anyone in a long-distance relationship also needs technology to stay in touch (and in love). So, a digital detox doesn’t have to mean pulling all the plugs. Make sure to define some concrete, realistic goals. Do you want to dial down your social media consumption? Or watch less TV? How long do you want the experiment to last?

Your destination can be found without digital maps and GPS.

Make a plan

Before you embark on your digital detox, make sure to cover all the bases. Write down all important contacts and numbers. Print out maps, if necessary. You could even circle working phone boxes, should you need one. And don’t forget to carry some spare change, just in case!

For calls you can recourse to classic phone boxes. Don’t forget to bring change!

Let your friends know

While this digital detox is all about you, your decision also impacts the people around you. Tell your friends, family and colleagues about your plan and let them know when you’ll be less reachable – or via which channels. It also makes sense to arrange meetings in advance – though you probably won’t be able to change them spontaneously.

Discover the city without a smartphone.

Time to get serious: switch off

Whether you’re deactivating your Wi-Fi or your entire smartphone – the actual “off” moment can feel strangely liberating. So, feel free to celebrate. We recommend packing away all those tempting switched off devices straight away – out of sight, out of mind, in a box or drawer. And then: Enjoy the silence …

Goodbye social media – simply enjoy the quiet …

Make the most of it

… or an ice-cream. Before your internal to-do list kicks in, fill this newly-won time (because that’s what it is) with some modest luxuries. You’ve earned it. A quick sunny stroll to the corner shop, a weekly paper, a park bench to feed some birds.

… and take time to read a book or the newspaper. Without being disturbed by notifications.

Room for thought

You’ve already used a notebook to take down some numbers. So, make the most of this “paper-based storage medium” during your analogue days: Swap it for apps or Spotify when you’re waiting for the bus or have a few minutes spare. Even if chewing on a pen doesn’t trigger an immediate flow of thoughts and ingenious ideas, an empty sheet of paper can work wonders. Ask yourself: What’s it like not to be connected? Do you miss anything? Do you feel enriched? Do you spot a funny situation or interaction, out there on the street? Whatever goes through your mind, just jot it down. Together with spontaneous scribbles and drawings, this becomes your very own digital detox diary.

How about writing a postcard instead of posting a story on Instagram?

The comeback

Your re-entry into the digital realm will feel just as strange as your exit. So, take your time and pick a good moment. No need to read all of those messages and notifications straight away – you did just fine without them during your time off. That’s something really worth thinking about: What did you really miss?

To see how Michel did with his own digital detox challenge, check out the video above. Further episodes of Challenge Accepted are available on YouTube, on the smart YouTube channel.

For digital downscalers and design lovers: The “dumbphone” by Swiss design company Punkt lets you phone and text – and nothing else. We’ve put the sleek digital detox helper through its paces.