Pop quiz: How are you reading this newsletter? If you said “on my phone,” then I would guess you probably could use a break from that little miracle of modern technology.
Think about it. If you’re reading on a mobile device, there’s a good chance you’re multitasking (or even “dual-screening”), too. Are you squeezing in your reading on the train to work? over a meal? in bed? during an outing with a loved one? while on vacation?
We’re a busy society. One of the reasons we love our electronics so much is that they make it possible to do what we do—anywhere! That can indeed be a great advantage, but it can also be a burden. When was the last time your downtime was truly yours, uninterrupted by phone calls, emails, text messages, and various notifications and alerts?
It’s all a bit disorienting after a while. We’re so very connected, and yet we’re less connected to each other—and ourselves—than ever. We could use a reset, a steadying of the work/life and social/self balances that our too-dependent technology habits have upset. Let’s explore today how this electronic world has affected our wellbeing, then reset our practices so that we can use technology more sensibly and healthfully!
Tech Smart Tip 1: Don’t let “checking in” count you out.
Have your electronics threatened your physical health?
In the past two decades, injuries related to technology have become so common that medical professionals actually call these conditions by names like “text neck” or “mouse shoulder.” And it’s no exaggeration. These strains comes from keeping our bodies hunched, slouched, or bent while we work on computers, read or type our mobile screens, or hold phones to our ears.
Other dangers to never putting down the smartphone exist, too. Remember that advertisement with the texting man who walks directly into a fountain? It’s funny on TV, but real-life falls, car accidents, and plenty of other mishaps are caused by paying attention to a cell phone instead of one’s surroundings.
Ask yourself: Is that message more important than your wellbeing? I doubt it. There’s a time for checking in, and a time not to. As in so many aspects of life, moderation and sensibility are the rule with technology.
Tech Smart Tip 2: Set boundaries.
Imagine being told that you had to be at work all the time—literally, 24/7. Would you accept that?
Of course not—that’s absurd! But in practice, that’s what many of us do. Is your habit to check for work-related email and texts well outside of office hours—including weekends and vacations? If so, sadly, you’re far from alone. For many, this is the norm.
A recent study confirmed what exhausted workers have long suspected: That “always on” mentality is heavily stressful. Even when no messages actually appeared, just the expectation that they would check in regularly destroyed the study participants’ ability to unwind and disconnect.
We need breaks, period. So stand up for your own wellbeing: Be clear about when your work day ends. Then show you’re taking your own limits seriously by only responding during your actual work hours. Taking personal time off is good for you, I promise.
And if you’re the boss? Set the example for positive mental and physical health by not monitoring work communication after hours, and encourage employees not to, either. Such a stance is good for both people AND businesses: Studies also show that the most efficient and productive workers are those who are well treated and well rested!
Tech Smart Tip 3: Take an electronic holiday.
Once you’ve gotten serious about disconnecting after work daily, consider giving yourself a slightly longer break. Can you spend a whole weekend screen-free? What will you do with all the newfound free time? Explore outdoors, meet with friends for an afternoon of shopping, get some exercise, visit a local museum, pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read….
I’m willing to bet that leaving your most demanding forms of technology behind will lead you to some valuable self-rediscovery and a fair amount of truly refreshing downtime. You might even find that when you check your inbox upon your return from “holiday,” you missed nothing of importance. (If so, consider that permission to do it again next weekend—wink!)
Smartly applied, technology is a wonderful, miracle helper. But I urge you to rethink the “always on” mentality and instead adopt a sense of mindfulness, an appreciation for what’s real, here and now. Chat with that coworker face to face instead of emailing. Look up from your phone and pay attention to the person you met for tea. Turn off the computer well ahead of bedtime so you can unwind. Invest in a plain alarm clock rather than relying on your cell phone alarm (and the unwanted notifications that come with it). A few simple electronic boundaries can serve as your gateway back to authentic interactions during the day, and rejuvenating, restorative rest at night!