In our connected world, it can seem almost impossible to avoid staring at a screen every waking hour. But we’re not always being productive about it. We spend hours a day swiping through mindless drivel online when we could be engaging with the real world. We are often in digital overload mode. So how can we make it stop?

It’s impractical to imagine we can live without our electronics; they’re an inescapable a part of the world we live in today. But we can find ways to stop using our devices to waste time when we could be doing something much more beneficial to our future selves.

Here are three ways you can stay connected without the constant threat of digital interruption hanging over your head.

1. Set boundaries 

Rather than trying to quit going online cold turkey, set limits around your device use. The amount of time you choose to live without your device will depend on your individual needs. You can decide to check your phone first thing when you wake up, but then avoid it completely on your commute to work. Alternatively, you could pick a pocket of time in the afternoon or before bedtime when you say ‘no’ to screen time. Pick something that works for you to improve your odds of success and to help with habit forming.

2. Embrace manual mode

Notifications can drive you mad. They’re part of the reason we’re so glued to our phones. That swish or beep signifying a new email, text or alert is difficult to ignore, even with the best of intentions. So go into your phone right now and turn off notifications you don’t need. Instead, opt to manually check your phone for new emails or messages.

This way, you reduce your distractions and can interact with your devices at intervals that work for you. 

Some devices offer you the option of turning your screen black and white, which can help reduce the allure of your phone or tablet, and reduces the power of that tiny red dot that alerts you of a new message.

3. Break away 

You’re bored or looking for a quick distraction, so you get into social media to pass a few minutes - and before you know it you’ve been sucked into a vortex. Hours later, you emerge no smarter than you were before and having made no real connections because the people around you have long since moved on. All you did was fill your brain with food porn from your friends’ timelines, pet photos and maybe the odd inspirational quote that you can’t remember now anyway.

Give social media a break. If you can’t just yet, then turn off notifications for all but the accounts you consider important for your career, and set boundaries around what time you log in. Also, avoid posting overly personal information so you’re not glued to your device desperately looking for reactions from your friends.