Technology has created a wealth of new opportunities for entrepreneurs, increasing productivity, improving business profitability and turning the world into a local marketplace. What’s not to like?
Unfortunately for "techno-addicts" who are seduced by its power, there’s a price to pay for being connected 24/7 through ‘use anywhere’ devices.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, is your health. Technology has increasingly removed the separation between work and non-work, placing you at the mercy of on-demand accessibility. This can leave you overwhelmed by a torrent of messages, calls, tweets and other digital information, some important but most of it not, all beamed into your phone, computer and tablet.
For the hard-pressed entrepreneur, trying to absorb and act on this constant stream of new data can result in ‘burnout’ – what the internationally recognized Mayo Clinic describes as “a state of emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.”
That’s reflected in sleeplessness, digestive problems, stress, headaches and potentially more serious health issues.
So, even if you‘re the most passionate and dedicated entrepreneur, you need a break from your business to recharge your batteries.
The second major consequence of being a techno-addict is that it deprives you of the most important entrepreneurial resource of all – your brain – the organ you need to be using to think, plan, innovate and solve, all high-end strategic functions that require time and space to do effectively.
But when you inundate your brain with information from every technological source going, you’re not giving it the opportunity to assess, analyze or solve.
In a digital world, your mind is constantly being forced to work overtime, typically revving at 20 - 30 thoughts per minute. Consequently, you’re continually forced into providing instant answers, with little time for consideration. This results in reactive, hasty decisions, often based on incomplete information. That’s not good for you or your business.
Incoming emails and phone calls are tremendously distracting. They can even result in a 10 point drop in IQ, according to a study conducted by Hewlett Packard. That’s the same as you would experience after losing a night’s sleep.
Put simply, very often technology isn’t your brain's best friend. When you try to do several things at once, you aren’t more productive, but less by as much as 40 percent, according to brain scan studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Related: Do Tech and Meetings Mix?
So while you may think that you’re using technology to multi-task, in reality you’re constantly interrupting yourself, all of which adds to your levels of stress. But how do you know if you’re a ‘techno addict’ who has fallen under the spell of technology? Here are a six tell-tale signs:
1. For you, new is best. You’re always an early adopter, acquiring new technology without properly assessing whether it’s going to add real value to your business, or is just ‘nice to have’, giving you the buzz of the new.
2. You rely on technology for basic answers. You invariably choose a ‘techie’ option over any other. When was the last time you picked pen and paper to do a quick sum, for instance?
3. You experience withdrawal symptoms. You need to be constantly ‘plugged in’ and become stressed if you’re without your favorite piece of technology for too long, itching for interaction and distraction.
4. You experience ‘FOMO’. You worry about missing out when you aren’t connected. This ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FOMO) is now considered a real psychological condition affecting those who crave continual social interaction and novel experience, without which they can develop ‘social anxiety’.
5. Your digital connections are replacing your ‘real world’ interaction. Your virtual and physical world are being blurred. Picking up the phone or meeting up is becoming more rare than connecting through social media or email. You may be winning more connections and Facebook ‘likes’ but you are missing out on quality human interaction and time to be with people you care about.
6. Your creativity has gone on holiday. Apart from eating and sleeping, most of your life, work and play happens online. Can you remember the last time you expressed a feeling or an idea by drawing on a piece of paper or sketched out a project on a napkin? Your keyboard feels like a natural extension of your fingers.
Fortunately, as an entrepreneur who is able to do your own thing, it’s easy to control your technology habits, and those of others in your business. If you sense that technology may be starting to get the better of you, a crucial first step to regaining technology control is to adopt what’s known as a JOMO philosophy, in other words the ‘Joy of Missing Out’.
So, rather than allowing technology to be your master, you become master of it, setting clear boundaries as to where and when you allow it into your life. Turn off your phone to give yourself quiet periods. Use Internet blocking software to make sure you don’t go online too frequently. Reduce the number of times you check your email each day. Limit how much ‘downtime’ you spend on social networking sites.
Inevitably, you will miss out on some of what’s happening out there, but after a while, you’ll also find that it doesn’t matter as much as you thought.
In parallel, start using the time you would have spent feeding your techno-addition as valuable "think time" or "me time." This will give you the "head space" to focus on solving your business problems and consider new ideas, without the clamoring interference of technology, as well as the space to think about yourself and your needs in other areas of your life.
How much better will you be as an entrepreneur when you stop being a techno-addict? I don't know for sure. But I strongly suspect that being less stressed and having more thinking time will make you more efficient, effective, happier and probably more successful, too. Switching off is the new speeding up.