At our fingertips 24/7, there are beeps, vibrations, and visual notifications that there is something new awaiting our attention. There are numerous conduits of the information—iPhones, Droids, Blackberrys, iPads, laptops, and PCs. There are many ways to transmit the information—email, texting, and blogging. And, there are several social media platforms to engage with, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest.
At what point does it start to take over our lives? The technological clutter in our lives can be as damaging to our health as the physical clutter. It takes away from time that could be spent with others and compromises the serenity in our lives. What is your technological drug of choice? Is it posting frequently on Facebook, texting constantly, or perusing YouTube?
Here are seven ways to unplug.
1. Reduce emails. For personal emails, which distribution lists can you unsubscribe to? Oftentimes, you have been added to a list without your knowledge. At the bottom of most mass emails, there is an “unsubscribe” link that you can click on. For work emails, request not to be copied on communications you don’t need to be. Ask or answer questions in person or over the phone so that you don’t end up going back and forth in numerous emails.
2. Delete, not forward. If you get a chain email, don’t forward it to your entire email distribution list. Use discretion on when and to whom you forward it. Make sure it’s really funny, poignant, or important. If it’s not, delete it from cyberspace.
3. Help yourself. Silence the visual or auditory notification on your cell phone and computer so that you aren’t tempted with every email, text, or Facebook update you get.
4. Be present. When you are with others, leave your cell phone ringer off and put it in your purse or pocket. Make it a table for two, not three. Resist the temptation to do a quick text or answer the phone while you’re having dinner with a good friend (unless you think it’s an emergency, of course). Be present with the one you are with; the others can wait.
5. Play the game. A good way to accomplish the previous idea is to play the Phone Stack game. When out to lunch or dinner with friends, everyone puts their phones face down at the center of the table upon arrival. Whoever is the first one to give in to the temptation of the various buzzes and rings signaling texts, emails, and calls, pays the bill. If no one reaches for the phones, you split the bill.
6. Disconnect. When you are on vacation, try to disconnect. See if you can go without email, Facebook, and/or Twitter—even if it’s just for one day. You don’t even have to be on vacation, try it on a weekend day.
7. Ask why. Ask yourself why you feel the need to be so tied to your _____ (fill in your social network of choice). Is it filling a void? Is it giving you something you are not otherwise getting in your relationships? Are you bored? Is it a compulsion (e.g. the need to have an empty in-box)? Spending time thinking about why you are doing it could lead to some personal insights.
When your connection with technology is coming from a healthy place and there is balance, that’s great. When it gets to the point where technology takes over your mind and/or infringes on time with your loved ones, it’s time for an intervention.
Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an award-winning author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her Amazon Top 100 book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at firstname.lastname@example.org