Digital distraction is everywhere you go now — in your pocket, on an airplane, in your office, at your vacation resort, beside your bed.
(And, if you don’t want to turn it off, have you ever stopped to wonder why? How much of you clicking a button every day is you needing information, and how much is you just clicking a button every day because every day you click that button?).
I’m not sure anymore if it can be totally turned off. But I know it’s possible to at least turn it down, and I’ve listed four suggestions below to help you get started. I would love to hear if you have others.
1. Make up some rules.
You are in charge of defining your digital boundaries. If you establish that you’re a person who can be reached 24/7, then yes, you should expect that people will call you 24/7. Don’t like that? Then make up some new rules.
- You don’t want to be Facebook friends with co-workers? Great. Say that in your Facebook bio and leave it at that.
- Only want to tweet between nine and five? Awesome. Make that a habit. Announce it to your followers and enjoy yourself.
- Don’t want your clients to call you on your cell? No problem. Don’t give them the number. Then be sure to regularly check your work phone and email and wow them that way.
Technology is not the master of you. You are the master of you. Don’t be afraid to act like it.
2. Separate your screens.
You’ve likely heard this one before, (and I’ll freely admit that it relies upon the assumption that you have some first world privileges available). If you have access to more than one digital device in your life, consider assigning them specific functions and segmenting your use accordingly.
For instance, maybe you designate your laptop as “all work all the time,” and only check Facebook when you’re on your iPad. Or you use your phone for tweeting, but not your desktop.
The point here is that if every device you own enables you to do everything — and they’re all nicely synced up to make that super easy — you will do everything…all the time.
While this likely seems really convenient, the reality is that doing everything all the time can become exhausting. Just because you can finish writing that blog post on your phone during your kid’s soccer game, doesn’t mean you have to.
3. Cherish your live links.
Argue this all you want, I’m going to take a hard-line stance here…
When you are in a one-on-one, real world conversation with another person and you pop out your phone or flip up your laptop screen to check your messages; you are being rude.
You might as well hold up a big sign that says to the other person, “This conversation is boring me.”
I’m not talking about the quick, “Hang on a sec. I want to check in on Four Square” kind of scenario here, but rather the constant bobbing of the head like a rabid chicken in a feeding frenzy, “peek at the phone throughout the entire course of a meeting” kind of thing.
If a real live person finds the time in their schedule to drag their ass to some coffee shop to spend time with you, give them your attention. There will be plenty of time later to add your “LOL” to that thread in Facebook about the funny kitty video.
4. Don’t be deceived by the “urgency mirage.”
I’m willing to bet that probably no one who reads this post has a job in which someone’s life rests in their hands. And yet, many of us check our email, our Facebook feeds or our phone like we’re neurosurgeons saving babies.
Have you ever stopped to think about what you’re hoping to gain by responding to everything so urgently? What is that alluring reward that lies just ahead…the one that keeps your phone always on, your computer always running and your eyes always checking?
- If you answer the phone on the toilet at Target, does that mean that your clients will love you more?
- If you scoop Chris Brogan on the latest social media news, does that mean you get to be famous too?
- If you stop talking to your kid to post on Facebook that you’re talking to your kid, does that mean you’re a cooler mom?
These are miraculous, exciting tools at our fingertips, and they deserve our introspection as well as our awe. Are they making music in your life or are they just making noise?