Many people feel like their lives are run by their phones; checking e-mails while on breaks at work or just before heading to bed, or aimlessly scrolling through news feeds unaware that over an hour of time has passed. Then you wonder why there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you want to do.
Work-life balance is enough of a challenge without modern technology. But in an age where computers and smart phones are supposed to be making our lives easier, we are more stressed and anxious than ever before, as we have higher expectations imposed upon us and a constant demand for immediacy. Mental, emotional and physical stress have all been linked to increased use of digital technology, due to the pressure to respond promptly to messages and e-mails, the self-imposed pressure to present yourself and your life in the best light possible on social media, to keep up with the newsfeeds of friends and family … to name a few. This can all lead to memory loss and a decreased attention span, as well as adrenal fatigue, as the body has a hard time producing enough cortisol, which is the hormone that helps the body deal with stress. Heart problems can also result from this obsessive digital engagement and trends in society suggest that smart phones have become more of an addiction than a convenience.
This addiction has become so strong that many parents cannot put down their phones even while on vacation with their children. According to a recent travel survey in the UK, nearly half of children who were asked about their parents’ cell phone use said they felt ignored by their parents, who use their cell phones too much while on vacation. How many times have you been in a restaurant and seen parents at a table with their children, only to be staring at their screens instead of engaging in conversations as a family?
How can we self-regulate and inspire our children to do the same?
We need to make the conscious choice to put down our phones and break this cycle. There are many ways in which you can remain in touch with those who matter while still distancing yourself from digital technology. While some people choose to do a complete digital detox, which is a worthwhile challenge if you’re up for it, there are some simple ways in which you can disconnect to reconnect.
- Turn your phone on silent when you arrive home for the evening
- Keep your phone out of your bedroom
- Leave your laptop at the office
- Delete apps that make access to sites far too quick and easy
- Turn off your notifications
Re-focus on what matters
Ask yourself what is most important to you and refocus on what matters. If keeping up with friends is important, make a point to get together with those you care about more often, instead of looking through their Facebook or Instagram feed. The same goes for your relationships with your family. Instead of checking out your children’s Instagram photos or SnapChat, have a real conversation with your children, ask about their day, and reconnect as their parent. This will inspire them to do the same. You cannot expect your children to put down their phones and relate one-on-one if you are not setting the example first.
If keeping up with the news is what matters to you, why not read the newspaper or a news magazine while enjoying a morning coffee outdoors, instead of scrolling through Twitter or MSN updates? That way, you are not only giving yourself a break from screen time, but you are enjoying some quality, quiet time as well. By taking back your time, you will find that you reconnect with yourself and feel more engaged with your family as well.
Set limits for yourself
Digital technology is not a negative thing, but boundaries need to be put in place in order to stay present and mentally fit. Streamline your expectations and adhere to them. Designate a time at which you will check your social media and stick to that schedule, no cheating! First thing in the morning, whether before work or at your first break, scroll through your newsfeeds, share what you want to share, get caught up and then leave it alone for the remainder of the day. You will likely find that you haven’t missed much between one morning’s review to the next. And you will be amazed at how much more free time you have given yourself, that you can fill with more meaningful accomplishments and interactions. When it comes to work e-mails, while you are at work, you are expected to focus on work. But once you leave the office, leave the work e-mails behind. They will still be there when you return tomorrow!
Accept that you cannot please everyone
By shutting off your devices, you will undoubtedly feel like you are letting some people down. But ask yourself this: Is it worse to let others down or to let yourself down? You can still meet your workplace demands while using your digital time more sparingly. You will find that by putting your phone down, you will actually get more accomplished, despite what you may have thought before you became more mindful of your time. The immediate gratification from social media gives you the illusion that you have it all and can do it all, when in fact, you accomplish much less due to the countless distractions. Allow yourself to say “no”, to restrict yourself on-line, so that you can ultimately give back more to yourself by putting yourself first.
When you read articles written by people who have gone through a complete digital detox, they all have one common thread: You never know how addicted you are to your phone until you force yourself to put it down. But once you get through the first few days of self-imposed rules and/or restrictions on your digital devices, you will find that the world goes on as it did before, that you are still in tune with those who matter most to you, and that you have actually regained control of your time and are now better prepared to use it more wisely.