It’s tough to disconnect in an always-on world. Many people have shared with me how their devices are an extension of their bodies to them. Arriving at the store or their office, realizing they’ve forgotten their phone, results in anxiety. Most of us probably know that overuse of the internet is not a good thing for us, but like all habits, they are hard to break. Since connectivity a bit part of today’s culture and can negatively influence our mental health, it’s a trend to we need to pay attention to. Here are five of my favorite tips that address negative tech habit.
- Do not start your day with email: It can set a negative tone for your whole day. The moment when you wake up, it’s not a great idea to read that email about another meeting that’s a waste of time or get a reminder for an overdue bill. You’re cranky before the day even begins. Start your day with a short devotional or a few moments in the sunshine to begin on a calm note.
- Leave your phone in the car: When I’m at the grocery store, I don’t need to take a call or check my email. There’s nothing currently happening in my life that requires me to be available 24/7. I realize that’s not the case for everyone. However, when you can leave it in the car, you’re removing the temptation to mindlessly scroll. If you’re standing in a long line, you don’t have to summon the willpower to not compulsively check your phone. Instead you can observe what’s happening around you and maybe even talk to another person in real life.
- Disable accounts: I can see your expression. The thought of not checking Facebook daily may be a foreign concept to you. Some tell me it’s the only way they can keep up to date with their grandchildren so they can’t imagine not logging into Facebook for a period of time. Notice I did not say “Delete.” I said “Disable.” You can disable it for a period of time and come back at a later date. The reason why I frequently disable Facebook is that it is not serving me. Spending time on Facebook does not bring me any closer to meeting my goals. It only serves as a distraction and often times a downer — especially with commentary and options on our recent presidential election. I don’t want to fill my head with negativity and wear myself down with information I simply don’t need to know. Will I use Facebook again? Sure, every few months, I re-enable it for several days, then shut it down again.
- Use “Zenware”: There are a number of tools and gadgets available to help monitor and prevent your internet use. With them, you block the internet for a determined period of time and set your browser to keep you off specific sites. These will not solve the problem. However, these tools will support you in your efforts to change.
- Mindfulness: Pay attention to how your technology use makes you feel. Are you anxious? Annoyed? Tired? Negative? As I mentioned up with Facebook, it wore me out. That’s the simplest reason for why I’m on there only occasionally.
Below are some other questions to ask yourself when it comes to your overuse of technology. You may even want to post them by your primary computer and do a self-check throughout the day.
- Why am I surfing these sites?
- What do I hope to get from it?
- How do I feel about what I’m reading online?
- What’s the expected outcome?
- Is it getting me to where I want to go?
- What do I not have time to do because I’m spending time online?
So is your heavy internet use really an “addiction”? Is it really that bad to be connected all day? Should you bother monitoring time online? Yes. Yes to monitoring your time. Yes to not being connected all day every day. And yes, in some cases, it can become an addiction.
The internet bombards us with other people’s thoughts, ideas and expertise. This constant influx of information — much of which is annoying or negative — leaves little room for creative thinking. We need downtime and quiet time to rest and recharge. At the very least, take a few minutes to evaluate your own habits. I bet there is some room for improvement. Start by asking yourself some of the above questions about your use and incorporate one of the tips above for breaking your habit. Even small change can go a long way in improving how you feel mentally and increase your productivity.