The Virtue Of Switching Off
Tools and technology have always been developed to help society do what we want. Washing machines, combine harvesters, faster trains and electronic typewriters were all designed to more efficient and enjoy more free time.
Modern technology is the same, but the way we engage with it is not. The Internet, tablets, laptops, smart phones and all other modern conveniences make working from any time from anywhere easy.
But there’s a pay off – the effect of ever-present notifications and the ability to connect with anything at any time has an effect on all aspects of our life. Constantly checking for notifications gets in the way of being productive or even engaging with people immediately around you. That’s never really been an issue with even the most high tech washing machine.
Harnessing the power of modern tools means keeping technology as part of your life, not at the heart of it. Be strong. Put the tool in it’s place. You have the power.
Living In A Connected World
Multitasking is not what it’s cracked up to be. Being busy is not the same as being productive. In fact, being productive often means the very opposite of being busy. Studies have found that multitasking would be more accurately described as switching between multiple tasks, not doing them at the same time. This switching causes slower brain function and decreased productivity. It’s widely understood that texting and driving is bad – how would juggling three work projects, doing two in split screen and texting about a third deliver any work of value? What work you do finish under this duress certainly won’t be as focused and polished as it could be.
Being able to work at your best means being present and sharp. Being connected to everywhere all the time detracts from this. The fear of missing out, has been identified to affect not only our social life but work too. Further studies have shown that feelings of jealousy and loneliness increase when engaged with social media. It’s analogous to comparing someone else’s highlights with your entire film, bloopers and all. Worrying about what else is going on, and being jealous about it, is just tiring.
Maintaining some sort of office hours for your work – even as a freelancer or working from home – is a good thing. When you can constantly be reached to do a small task for work, you can’t unplug from work. Your mind and body need rest to be productive day after day. All work and no play sure didn’t help Jack Torrance. Ok, so The Shining might be an extreme example but the need to disconnect and have space is a good thing. Solitude and boredom actually helps creativity.
Taming The Ghost In The Machine
But change is hard. Modern work lifestyle almost demands that you’re available and online as much as possible. How can you easily move into a more balanced relationship with your phone and technology?
The top tips that come from researchers, psychologists and other experts in the field involve taking time away from technology. Starting the day away from the computer, without access to email and straight into work is a favourite. Having an hour away from a screen before bed can help sleep patterns – then this helps your creative energy the next day.
Managing time wasting on the computer or smart phone or tablet, Facebook, reddit, twitter, other social media – wow, there really are so many ways to be wasting time with technology these days – is also a popular solution. Popular apps including Self Control App and Chrome extensions like StayFocusd limit your access online to various degrees.
Other options include having an extended period of technology-free time each year to get away from non-essential devices. Decide on a month where you’ll be away from social media. Going on holiday is a perfect excuse to do this – you’ve got so much more to do when travelling and relaxing than posting on social media or checking emails.
You’ll always have time to do that later, no matter how much you want to post your highlights for someone else to compare to their bloopers.