Why Every Entrepreneur Should Spend Less Time Looking at Screens Don't let your mind and body deteriorate because you're too stubborn to take a break -- or pick up a pen and paper once in a while.

By Anna Johansson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Chances are, you have a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. You watch TV, employ an ereader and interact with digital screens to do everything else, from adjusting the temperature in your home to ordering food in (or from) a neighborhood restaurant.

Related: 7 Easy Ways to Save Your Eyes From Smartphone Strain

If you're an entrepreneur, you probably stare at screens even when you're in a meeting with colleagues and clients, so as to multitask. In fact, you probably regard as an unavoidable fact of modern life the fact that screen-based interactions are necessary.

But for too many of us, out of our obsession for improving productivity and doing more every day, we may be losing track of how much we do these things.

Your best guess: How long have you spent staring at digital screens today? In fact, you've probably been looking at screens of various sizes since you woke up this morning. Last year, according to a Nielsen Company Audience Report, Americans averaged 10 hours a day of screen time.

And, all that staring at screens can have nasty repercussions. If you value your physical and mental health, now might be the time to cut back.

Potential consequences

Staring at a digital screen for too long can have result in a variety of dangerous consequences, such as:

Computer-vision syndrome. Between 50 and 90 percent of people who use a computer as a tool in their work exhibit at least some symptoms of computer-vision syndrome, including a suite of eye-related issues. Because digital screens require our eyes to focus and refocus constantly, as well as contend with sharp contrasts and shifting light sources, over time we may develop symptoms such as blurry vision, double vision, eye irritation, headaches or even neck and back pain.

Related: 5 Things Professionals Should Do to Reduce Their Screen-Related Risk of ADHD and Dementia

Consequences of sedentary living. Though this is not universal, in many cases, staring at a screen means you're sitting or lying down, and not moving while you interact with your device. If you spend most of your day staring at a screen, then you're living a sedentary lifestyle, and are therefore putting yourself at risk for developing conditions like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Social isolation. Depending on how you're using your screens, your time commitment to them could contribute to loneliness and social isolation. Although you're interacting with your device, you aren't interacting with other people, which means your relationships can weaken, and you may be at higher risk for depression. And don't assume that using your device for activity on social media will spare you from loneliness: Research indicates that heavy social media use is associated with feelings of social isolation as well.

Stress. Prolonged use of smartphones, laptops and other devices is also a sign that you could be working too many hours. If you spend 12 hours a day on work-related tasks on your personal devices, the stress will accumulate relentlessly, and take its toll on your body and mind eventually.

Balancing screen time and productivity

The real problem is that you rely on screens to do your work. Without the software, communications and productivity boosts that screen-based technologies entail, you wouldn't be able to get much done over the span of the day.

The key, therefore, is to identify new strategies that reduce your screen time without decreasing your overall productivity. For example:

Use your screen time wisely. First, make sure you're using your screen time wisely. When you go to use a digital screen, make sure you're employing it to accomplish a goal, rather than wasting time or entertaining yourself between tasks.

Take breaks. The American Optometric Association recommends the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes you spend staring at a screen, take a 20-second break to look at something at least 20 feet away to give your eyes a break. Even the busiest entrepreneurs can spare 20 seconds now and then. In addition, make sure you take a few prolonged breaks throughout the day.

Find alternatives. Instead of relying solely on the digital screen, find alternative ways to engage with people. Could you conduct a phone call instead of a chat session? Might you listen to an audiobook instead of reading the digital version?

Rely on written notes and planners. Consider taking notes and keeping a calendar using pen and paper, instead of a digital device. Paper and pen will spare your eyes, and research shows that writing things down in a tangible format can improve both understanding and recall.

Host walking meetings. If you can, try to host walking meetings, where you and your participants discuss things while you walk around the city, or even just the building. This will make you more active, and reduce the temptation to look at your devices during meetings.

Related: Protect Your Eyes From the Harm of Digital Devices With These 4 Tips

No matter how much you enjoy using your electronic gadgets or how committed you are to accomplishing great things for your firm, there's no excuse for spending as much time as you do on your digital devices.

Don't let your mind and body deteriorate because you were too stubborn to take a break.
Wavy Line
Anna Johansson

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Freelance writer

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer who specializes in social media and business development.

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