Do you immediately check your phone when you’re alone or have a free moment? Do you get distracted easily at work by the web? Perhaps you’re that person with the wise idea to film a concert on your phone.
Getting stuck in a digital rut is all too common today. People have become enslaved to their devices and it’s tough for them to regain control. Breaking free means drafting a new contract with technology and setting up boundaries that work.
Here are six common habits of a tech addict and ways to resolve them.
1. Skip the morning digital check-in.
Waking up to a techie breakfast of checking your email, Facebook or Instagram likes that you scored since midnight isn’t that nourishing. It saps productivity by flooding the mind with a full plate of everything before you've had a chance to focus on the bigger picture.
Swap the mobile activity by truly becoming mobile in the morning. Do some light stretching or yoga, brush your teeth, read a newspaper or meditate for 10 minutes. Work will be waiting for you in the office.
2. Ward off Internet interference.
You’re in the zone and working on the design of a presentation for a client. Then ding! An email arrives and you’re gazing at four videos of cute kids throwing cereal. Finding your bearings and getting back into the flow of work can be a real challenge, just like trying to do so after consuming a plate of very spicy food for lunch.
Interruptions are a drag, and there are various tools to get them under control. Install a browser extension like StayFocusd and set time limits on visiting certain websites. Or turn off your Wi-Fi for an hour. Better yet, step away from the computer entirely and grab a notepad.
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3. Avoid putting out the never-ending fire.
Some say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” But they might as well add, “And zero time to get it all done.”
Managers are often dragged into meetings or fire drills that require immediate attention and suck up the entire day. Mindfulness meditation is a technique that many find useful to instill a sense of presence and regain focus.
Develop a practice and make it part of your daily routine.
4. Stop always being available 24/7.
Technology lets people work and be reached no matter the place or time. With devices in the pocket, work-life fences are down and people are always set to be on. Yet taking breaks is good for the mind.
Who hasn’t had the Monday morning awakening when solutions magically appear to resolve giant problems? Getting there means being ruthless in creating space from screens. One day a week, consciously put in the effort to avoid anything digital. If you’re in need of a longer duration away from digital life, check out Digital Detox.
This Bay Area organization has hosted more than 500 individuals on mindfulness retreats, leading prominent tech companies in day camps and conversations to uncover ethics, healthy technology habits and best practices.
Founder Levi Felix, who is a friend, also runs Camp Grounded, the 100 percent off-the-grid summer camp for adults, “When we unplug for longer periods of time, we reconnect with with our own novel thoughts, our creativity heightens, blood pressure lowers and we are able to truly take stock in what's most important in life,” he tells me in an email.
5. Stop web searching for everything.
Remember exploring hiking trails without using Yelp or taking a risk to check out a pizzeria because it smelled delicious? Trust the gut more and dig inside to find the right answer. While at work, trust your intuition and surprise yourself with your own talents. People are prone to browsing the web for inspiration, but original work demands digging into a personal set of beliefs and experiences. Even if you fail, you’ll learn a ton.
6. Try shedding a phone or two for a while.
Phones can create a barrier between the holder and the subject, and in a way contaminate the purity of an experience. Life is always in high-definition. It’s important to create phone-free zones and times.
At my house, phones are banned during dinner. My friends and I play phone stack at restaurants, piling all the phones in the middle of the table. Imagine a pyramid of phones: Whoever picks up his or hers first pays the entire bill.
Next time you feel the need to pull out your phone and capture the moment, soak it in with your eyes and appreciate it. Over time, the anxiety of not being able to snap a photo of a cool fire hydrant will fade away, and you’ll just be there.