Thursday, August 6, 2015

Caught in a Technology Loop

Email, Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Words with Friends.... There is no shortage these days of distractions, and if you're anything like me, you find yourself constantly checking updates and notifications on your smartphone, how many "likes" you got on your latest Facebook post, the latest Top Ten Wacky Tattoo Fails, etc. etc. And while there's nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves, it's when we can't seem to disengage from them that they start to clog up our time and detract from our quality of life (as a variation on an old aphorism: No one on their death bed ever wished they spent more time looking at Reddit threads). So what to do about it? Here are a few simple actions you might try to put into practice this week:

1) Turn off all non-essential notifications on your phone.For most of our jobs, knowing when an important email coming in is an absolute necessity. But someone commenting on a Facebook post, or sharing a Tweet, or seeing that someone has looked at a Snapchat photo is far from mandatory. Try turning off all the extra notifications and see what effect that alone can have.
2) Set aside "Technology Time"As an extension of the first suggestion, turning off your notifications won't do you much good if you're still constantly checking your social media for updates anyway. Set aside a block of time specifically for these things - 20 minutes, 30, 40, whatever seems reasonable, just like you might set aside a non-interrupted block of time for an episode of "The Walking Dead" or "Game of Thrones." Then, go ahead and enjoy it guilt-free.
3) Put your phone away when walking or driving.This is a minor yet effective way to decrease your time in the virtual world and increase you presence in the real one. When you drive, stay present with the driving. When you walk, use the time to actually take in your surroundings.
4) Take a 5-minute "Reality Break"See if you can set aside 5 minutes a day just to sit and stare. Stare at the trees, stare at the clouds and the blue sky, stare at a body of water or a bed of flowers. You'd be surprised at what taking just 5 minutes to do absolutely nothing but being in actual reality can do for you.