In order for your business to run the most efficiently, and for your team to strive to be its best, as a leader, you have to set a good example. People notice when you are engaged, focused, organized, and can balance various aspects of your life. Those traits are what motivate others to follow your lead.

The problem is that we battle the same workplace distractions and obstacles as our employees and colleagues. The main culprit? Technology. More specifically, the temptation to use tech for personal reasons. In a 2018 report from Udemy, an online learning platform, 78 percent of respondents said using tech for personal activities at work was their top distraction.

Of course, technology is also a crucial component to help us work more effectively. A 2016 survey from The Hartford polled more than 1,200 workers and found that a vast majority felt their work productivity is improved by the internet (83 percent), email (79 percent), and mobile devices (72 percent).

It's the ultimate Catch-22. The solution? Don't fight tech, but rather make it work for you.

Implement technology in a humane way to block distractions. Focus on setting the right parameters around technology so you can improve key business skills like communication, time management, and self-discipline.

Here are four simple strategies that I've used with great success:

1. Create no e-mail Fridays.

Give yourself and your team a break from electronic communications and create human connections instead. Set up an entire day, or just a certain time frame during the day, when you encourage everyone to communicate by phone, or if a person is within close proximity, to speak with face to face. This helps to re-ignite team collaboration and personal connection, which can get rusty from endless electronic conversations that are impersonal. It also can remind your team about the importance of keeping up personal interactions.

2. Use your phone timer.

Because of the number of notifications I face throughout the day, it's sometimes hard to get my own work done. Setting a timer on my phone for activities that I need to finish, even if it's just 10 to 15 minutes, helps me stay fully engaged.

A timer creates a barrier against other would-be distractions since I know the clock is ticking, and I don't want to "waste" any time. This kind of self-discipline can be contagious to those around you, especially when others see how this works for you.

3. Take scheduled breaks.

Research suggests we work better with regularly scheduled breaks. One 2018 study from DeskTime suggested that the ideal approach is to work for 52 minutes and then to rest for 17 minutes.

Following this work-rest cycle can keep you focused and avoid online temptations and distractions--as long as you don't use your break time to check Facebook. Instead, use tech to do some activity.

For example: Get up and take a walk, and use a step counter. Seeing how many steps you take (or don't) often can give you the extra push you need to stand up and get moving.

I like to incorporate yoga or meditation into my breaks. Some of my favorite apps and virtual websites are Simply Yoga, Yoga Studio: Mind & Body, and Drishtiq Yoga, which offer instruction-led mini classes from 10 minutes to an hour.

I also use Headspace for a five to 20-minute guided meditation. It allows me to disconnect by putting on my headphones and be guided on a "vacation" from my day without ever leaving my desk.

4. Plan your day.

People notice if you're organized and efficient--and if you aren't. Creating a daily to-do list helps to keep me on track, but you can't always keep a paper agenda on hand. I've come to rely on apps that help me outline my day, prioritize my top tasks to be completed by day's end, and better manage my time.

Todoist is one day planner app that helps me set up simple checklists with due dates, as well as designate tasks to specific team members. Bonus: it can be integrated with Google Calendar and Evernote so you can collaborate with team members who don't use the app. If you don't want a separate app, Gmail and Microsoft Outlook also have functions to create task lists.

Technology can be the best and worst parts of running any business. By being mindful and intentional on how we utilize technology, and instead tap into its strengths, you can use its power for good. You'll become a more focused and efficient worker, and the kind of leader people want to follow.

Published on: Aug 21, 2018