“Don’t become a slave to technology.
Manage your phone. Don’t let it manage you.”
– Richard Branson
I intimately recall the moment it happened.
I had just got off an Eastbound Central Line train at Buckhurst Hill in Greater London. I reached into my pocket to check my phone. Panic rushed through my body as my fingers felt inside an empty pocket. I opened my bag with a sense of dread, rifled around with blood rushing in my ears, and no phone looked back at me. I felt hot and cold at the same time, and sick as the reality of the situation dawned on me. I had left my phone on the train…
How would you feel if you’d lost your phone?
According to some studies, many people would prefer to go without food than be separated from their smart phones, even for an hour. Shocking perhaps, but given the rapid rate that mobile devices – phones and tablets in particular – have become intertwined into our lives, it’s not surprising at all. In fact, my mobile device has very much become an extension of my brain. It helps me find my way (thanks Google maps), pay my bills (thanks First Direct app), check-in with my networks (thanks Linkedin and Facebook), decide what to wear (thanks Accuweather), motivate and educate me (thanks Audible) and so many other tasks. Why, it even tracks my steps, heart rate and mood! Not to mention answer any other query that comes up in my day. To be honest, it’s amazing that I got anything done at all BSME (Before the Smartphone Era).
However, whilst the benefits of smartphone devices is unquestionable, there’s always a price to pay. And that price is often overwhelm and burnout.
The latest stats show that we each touch our smartphones 2617 times a day, so almost a million taps, swipes or clicks per year. People have become obsessed with social media sites like Facebook, keeping up to date with their networks’ happenings and shares.
If you’re struggling with device addiction, information overload and lack of boundaries in your life, then enter the Healthy Habit of ‘Digital Detox’, the trendy word for not looking at your devices for a period of time. Those advocates of solid periods of digital detox during the working week claim significant benefits including time back (yay), more stuff done (great), improved relationships (fab), better posture (amazing) and a deeper appreciation of the Now and what’s actually going on around you, so easily missed if your attention is on a little screen instead.
So with such amazing benefits, I was jolly glad to see some very practical tips from Kamwell, the Employee Wellbeing company, which inspired me to write the list below to help you take back control of your time and experience the true wellbeing benefits that a digital detox can provide:
Remember who the boss is. I love modern technology and use it to achieve so much in my life, BUT it’s an enabler and not the master. They didn’t label the Blackberry, “Crackberry” for nothing.
Count. Take a single day and count how many times you check your phone. If you’re like the average person, you’ll be glaring at that little screen 9 times every hour. To help you count, as you’d expect there’s an app for that. Try ‘RealizD’ and ‘Moment’
Turn off notifications. All of that pinging achieves nothing apart from distracting you from what you’re doing. I know that fear of missing something important is a real concern, but it is important to fight it as most daily alerts don’t need your immediate attention.
Decide. How often do you want to check your device? You’re in the driving seat and it’s your decision. My own system these days is not to look at my device until I am on my way to work. During my day, I check it twice, which enables me to chunk the task and focus on work the rest of the time. Some people set their out of office messages to let people know when they will be checking their email. For instance: ‘Thanks for your message. I check email at the end of the day, so will get back then. In the meantime, if it’s urgent call me’, or something along those lines. In the evening, I put my devices away at 7pm and get into ‘evening mode’ and family time.
Keep it out. Falling asleep under the glow of a mobile phone is not a very healthy habit to get into, for all sorts of reasons. I like to have a bedtime ritual where I put my device to bed in the kitchen, lounge, or any room that isn’t my bedroom. If you’re thinking, ‘I use the alarm on my phone to wake-up’, go old school and buy an alarm clock, or set it really loud so that you can hear it from your bedroom and have to get up to switch it off!
Create digital rules for yourself, your team and your family. Include things like no emailing after 6pm, no phones or tablets in meetings, no devices at all on a Sunday. Of course, like any rule, they will need to be enforced, so consider an incentive scheme to make the whole Digital Detox practice fun and rewarding – and as stress-free as possible.
So there you have it. 6 tips to help you get some time back, reduce your stress and increase your productivity and performance.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what happened when I left my phone on the train at Buckhurst Hill, well I was very lucky. The station master called my number and a lady answered! My phone had been handed in and we were reunited 30 minutes later. The huge sense of relief and jubilation made me realise just how dependent I’d become, and that I was in need of taking back some control. So that is what I did.
Take the Digital Detox Challenge
This one is simple. Allocate one day per week to having a Digital Detox, which means no peeking at your phone, tablet, computer, or any other digital device that day. To help kick-start you off nicely, start with a short, 5 minute meditation to get into the right frame of mind.
Do this for four weeks and keep a journal of how you feel, what you experience and what you learn. Let me know by jumping into the Raw Energy Facebook Group, or tweet me directly @rawenergy100.
Let me leave you with a very short video, “Look up” which illustrates the point very well.
Remember, it’s your life: live it.
For more insights and a plan of action, read the book: Worried about burnout in your workplace? “Success without Stress: How to prevent burnout and build resilience” can help. This short book is full of practical tips to help leaders and employees trying to cope with excessive workloads, challenging relationships and the excessive pressure of operating in constantly changing and uncertain work environments. Success without Stress was written to help employees take back control, and employers reduce the cost and risk of burning out their staff, and improving productivity and business success. Get your copy today.
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