How long has it been since you last checked your phone or email? Ten minutes? Five? Do you want to check it right now? Studies have shown people on average (and varying quite a bit by age) check their phones 150 times a day, often starting first thing in the morning before any other tasks. It works out to an average phone peek every six and a half minutes.
Technology is an amazing thing. It has brought us new opportunities and fostered connections in ways too many to count, but like anything, it has a downside. Being constantly on-call increases anxiety, plays on our fears of missing out. A workday becomes a 24-hour affair, with texts and emails being sent into the night and on weekends. Even quiet time often involves sitting in front of the TV with a phone or tablet in hand, or a walk conducted with head down, looking at a phone.
Time to Take a Break?
Like any habit the phone or the internet can take on the qualities of an addiction. What’s more, multi-tasking doesn’t actually improve productivity, it just means you’re doing more things with less attention to each.
Taking some time to unplug from your electronic devices can provide a much needed breather. It also has health benefits – eye strain, repetitive stress injuries, head and neck pain all can be made worse by too much screen time. A brisk walk away from your computer, without the phone constantly interrupting, does more for productivity than instant replies. Your brain needs time to recharge – just like your phone! Daydreaming is how the mind refreshes itself.
Try making family dinner or the next friends’ outing device-free. Spending time with loved ones, without distractions – or the pressure to document each moment with photos – can lead to better conversations and strengthen relationships.
Get in the habit of putting away electronics an hour before bed to improve your sleep. The light from electronic screens fools the body into thinking it’s still daytime, while the mind gets too wound up from another email or high score to relax. Instead turn your bedtime routine into a relaxing ritual for you, a time to let go of the outside world.
Try unplugging for a short time each day. If you can, try a walk in nature so you can re-connect to more natural rhythms.
If you’re feeling the need for something bolder, go off the grid completely. Take a holiday without electronics. You may say you won’t use them on vacation, but it’s hard to resist the temptation of Candy Crush or Twitter when it’s pouring rain on your beach day or campout, so it’s best not to pack them at all. Boredom is important, for both kids and adults, it’s a chance to get creative with ways to entertain, and an opportunity to develop the inner life that sustains us no matter the Wi-Fi signal.