The technology available to us is truly amazing, we can work or play on devices at anytime, anywhere. One of the delights of this technology however also presents a challenge to us – it is designed to be attention-grabbing and attention-holding. As a result, it primes our brains to always be looking for the next most interesting thing and fuels an avoidance of boredom or even “down time”.
Does this matter? Yes, it does. By constantly seeking out stimulation for our brains, we come to need more and more stimulation to feel satisfied.
If you are not sure if your use of technology is a problem for you, try this test. Can you:
- have a meal with a friend or family member without looking at a screen?
- leave your phone behind when you go for a walk?
- go to the bathroom sans technology?
- concentrate on a piece of work without checking social media?
- enjoy a movie with your phone turned off?
How did you go? If you answered “No” to most of these, it is time to consider hauling your usage back.
Here are a few ideas to help prevent digital tech overload:
- Prioritise time for tech-free recovery. Allow yourself time out without the pull of technology. Head off to the gym or for a round of golf without a screen. Have some offline time on your commute – put the devices away and focus instead on what you are doing, even if that’s just enjoying the view out the bus or train window for some of your journey.
- Plan a tech-free evening, day off or weekend. Or really push your limits and take a holiday, leaving your work phone and other devices behind.
- Take time to connect without interruption. Going on a date night with your partner, or sitting down to a family meal are great times to leave your devices off. Your relationships will thank you for it.
- Limit your use while doing other things – especially tasks requiring learning, concentration, or creativity. Try cooking to music, or enjoying a DIY or house project without the “ping” of notifications.
- Purchase a box to lock your phone away at times of your choosing. This is an “out of sight, out of mind” solution but it really works.
- For best sleep quality, avoid devices for at least one hour before bed. Turn off screens, have a shower, read a book (ideally on paper!), practise some relaxation exercises – whatever tech-free routine works well for you.
- Use digital media to enhance rather than diminish interaction and connection with others – watch something together, read an online article and discuss it after, connect over shared content – more than just a “like” or emoji.
- Set up screen-free zones, for example, your bedroom. (And the kids’ bedrooms, if you’re up for a challenge!) Don’t watch TV in bed, and leave your laptop, smartphone, and tablet in a different room when you go to bed to prevent the urge to check messages late at night or first thing in the morning, and avoid disruptions to your sleep. Also, establish screen-free zones in your workplace, especially in areas where having face-to-face conversations could be fun, productive and/or meaningful.