We spend a lot of time on our smartphones. In fact, we spend over four hours a day on a mobile phone.
I like 99.999% of people reading this post have a problem. I can't disconnect from my phone. New study says we touch our phone 2617 times a day. Yuck. While smartphones have made some aspects of life more enjoyable, constantly being plugged in can be draining. Here are a few things I've notice that my phone does to my life.
Think about it. You’re constantly being interrupted during the workday, which prevents you from staying totally focused and therefore more productive. On top of that, you’re receiving emails, texts, and social media notifications, all while you’re “off the clock.”
As a result, you begin to feel overconnected and burned out, which takes away your motivation.
Even if you resist it, researchers have found that we all need to step away from technology. That’s because being on-call 24/7 prevents your brain from relaxing and recouping, which leads to stress. While a study from Sweden found that technology can increase the risk for mental health problems like depression, stress, and sleep disorders.
Alright. So unplugging is a good thing. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
Decide exactly what to give-up.
“I didn’t want to completely abandon the Internet,” writes author Baratunde Thurston who was once the world’s most connected man.
“I love, depend on, and frankly am made a better human being by the convenience of streaming movies, online food ordering, and Google Maps. I did not want to sever ties with friends; in fact, one of my goals was to strengthen relationships with pre-Facebook pals. I wanted to go to lunch, attend holiday parties, and host people for dinner.”
First, Thurston decided that he would still use his phone for personal calls and texts. He could then schedule these encounters with his Google Calendar. Next he needed to determine what it was that he could prohibit.
“Two activities made the prohibition list. First, all business affairs would be tabled. Call me self-employed, call me an artist, call me Supreme Allied Commander of My Multi-Hyphenate Life; they all translate to ‘working all the time.’ I would not live that way during this vacation.”
“Second, for 25 days I would avoid all social media, including the original online social network: email. I would not read, write, or be notified of any electronic missive. I would not generate any activity whatsoever on any social network whatsoever. This included: seeing, reading, downloading, syncing, sending, submitting, posting, pinning, sharing, uploading, updating, commenting, tagging, rating, liking, loving, upvoting, starring, favoriting, bookmarking, plus-oneing, or re-anythinging.”
To accomplish this, Thurston had to delegate tasks, like responding to emails or updating his social channels to someone else. "You probably don’t have a full-time employee, but you could hire a virtual assistant for a couple of hires a week. This way you’re sure that you are not missing out on anything important."
Get your disappearing act ready.
Next, prepare your vanishing act by giving VIPs, like your accountant, lawyers, and clients, a head’s up. Now you want to create an away message for all of your accounts. And, if possible, deactivate or your place your accounts on vacation mode.
What if you only want to unplug for a couple of hours a day?
You can place your phone on airplane mode or use apps that block distracting websites, emails, and texts. I even know of people turning off their smartphone. I have been told that it helps if you have an old school cell phone. This prevents checking emails or Facebook, but still lets you be able to receive essential phone calls and texts.
Another option would be to activate an “out of office” signature on your email when you’re done working and having a separate number so that your personal phone isn’t blowing-up.
Have a life outside of work.
This is key. You need to cultivate a life outside of work. This could be anything from finding a new hobby, learning something new, volunteering, or spending more time with friends or family.
However you decide to spend your free time, it should be something that doesn't involve your normal work and allows you to unplug. Also -- please, please, please find something that you really love to do. If you are not in tune with yourself this may be a little bit difficult.
Take a little time to find something you can be passionate about. And, really, if you are not passionate about it -- find something, new, fun, cool, weird, outrageous -- or whatever. It's also nice to find someone to do these activities with. Alone is not so fun, cool, weird, or outrageous.
Whenever you find yourself in a "tech haze" because your face is buried into your phone, then it’s time to get active. Instead of checking emails after work, go for a walk or bike ride with your family. Do office exercises instead reading your social accounts during a break.
Not only does this prevent you from being glued to technology. It gets the blood flowing, which improves your mood. As a result, you’ll feel more energized, focused, and motivated.
If you need something more extreme, plan a vacation. Between traveling and sightseeing, there won’t be many opportunities to check your phone. Traveling is a great way to spark motivation since you’re introduced to new cultures, ideas, and perspectives.
Set a strict “bedtime” for technology.
It’s no secret that the blue light from mobile devices can prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep. To get around this, make it a point to avoid using any mobile devices for at least two hours before going to sleep. Doing so will give you plenty of time to wind down so that you can get that quality sleep we all need. Good old fashioned reading from an actual book (not tech) is one of the best "rest from tech" that you can do for yourself before bed.
If you’re tempted to use your phone, then you may want turn-it-off completely. Maybe put that phone in another room. You could shut-off your wifi. Whatever you decide, make sure that once you have set a “bedtime” for technology, you stick with it every night.
Carry a book.
Okay, yes it's the "book thing" again. Let’s say you use public transportation for your morning commute or are waiting for an appointment. How do you spend that time? Probably browsing emails, social media, or playing a game, right?
Even if it’s not work-related, you’re still relying on technology. I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a book with me. This keeps me away from getting sucked into my smartphone or tablet.
Schedule “free time.”
Finally, make sure that you schedule in some "free time" daily. This is where you’re allowed to play games, watch YouTube, chat to friends, or upload your pics to Instagram. However, once this allotted time is up, switch off your gadgets.
This not only keeps you productive, it also helps you get into a pattern of using your tech-time more wisely. This is because if you know that you only have a set amount of time to use technology, you’ll prioritize your tech-related tasks.