*This article is adapted from the book, The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People.
Thinking about cutting back on fats, sugars, and carbs in order to lose weight and get on a healthier path? I’d like to introduce a technology diet for this year’s health kick, as distractions are setting us up for unhealthy habits in today’s culture.
Laptops, tablets, and smart phones are a big contributor to life distractions. We grab our smart phones when they beep or ring, and pretty much any time we’re bored, curious, or in search of an answer to a question that seems urgent. This counters productivity if we’re trying to get work done that requires real thinking; it can also disrupt moments of connecting with our family, friends, and real selves.
Somehow, as a culture, we’ve developed extreme discomfort when we don’t know the answer to something or feel like we are missing information. Rewind just a decade to the early 2000s and we didn’t have the answer to every question at our fingertips; why can’t we be comfortable not knowing something? Why must we interrupt ourselves to search for every small fact along the way?
I am someone who is very easily distracted, and I know I have trouble with willpower when I hear my phone ring or beep. So I have to get creative in setting boundaries to avoid feeling like technology has a hold on my life.
Below are five things that have worked for me to minimize distraction and stay focused. Try one, or all five, to get started on your technology diet.
Take a Technology Vacation
Designate device-free windows of time where you ditch your device and stay in the moment. You can do this for longer stretches of time, or small windows each week. Here are some ideas:
- Go for a walk every day without your phone.
- Ditch your phone every Sunday, making that conscious effort to take a technology break. If you like the idea but aren’t ready to go that far, try Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (or choose a day of the week that works better for your schedule.)
- Silence your phone every evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (or any other two-hour window of time).
- Take one weekend a month and go somewhere in nature without cell service. If you have more willpower, you can simply avoid using your device instead of going somewhere that doesn’t allow you to connect. I don’t have that kind of willpower, so I like to travel without service.
- Create conscious intentions around picking up your phone: ask yourself, “Do I really need that info or do I need something else?”
Turn Your Phone Off
This sounds easy, but it’s not easy to follow through with. For many, our smart phone is our source of music, our calculator, our watch, and our means of communication and entertainment. Turn it off?! When it doesn’t need a restart?!
If that sounds impossible— try the next tip instead …
Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode
One of my favorite things about traveling is being disconnected. I get so much done on airplanes without the distraction of emails, Google, Facebook, and phone calls. It didn’t occur to me until recently that I can just take the same approach when I need to crank out some critical thinking or writing.
If that still sounds impossible, start even smaller and try the next tip . . .
Silence Your Notifications
When you’ve got an important task at hand, turn off your notifications so you won’t be interrupted. This means all app notifications that pop up on your screen: email, calendar reminders that ding or appear, and your phone’s volume.
Set Up a Device-Free Zone
Designate one or two areas in your house where devices are not allowed . . . and stick to your rules. Once you’re used to it, you’ll find yourself enjoying those places most in your home. Good trial zones to begin with might be your bedroom, backyard, living room, kids’ rooms, or kitchen table.
Once you begin to incorporate more technology breaks into your life, your instinct to grab your phone for every little thing will decrease; you’ll rely less on technology, more on intuition, and find more mindful moments in your life.