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Say No to Virtual Noise
: Six Small Changes to Break Your Technology Addiction
2/1/2020 1:00:00 PM

Digital Noise

Digital disruptions, random distractions, and 24/7 connectivity are undermining our ability to focus—and that hurts our quality of life. But there are some simple, doable changes you can make to reclaim your most valuable assets: your time and attention.

"Slowly and without realizing it we’ve become slaves to emails, news stories, celebrity gossip, and endless social media alerts,” says Joseph McCormack, author of NOISE: Living and Leading When Nobody Can Focus. "Digital distractions take us out of the moment, make us miss life’s nuances, and rob us of our potential.”

The consequences are real. We tune out our kids (and they develop the same bad habits). We half-listen to our partners. We go through the motions at the office, missing the cues that lead to smart decisions and failing to do the "deep work” that leads to real success.

The good news is we can live richer, more rewarding, more intentional lives. We just need to be aware of what we’re doing—and what we’re not doing—and make small yet surprisingly high-impact changes around our relationship with technology.

Try going a week or two without social media. 

This may be tougher than you think because checking Facebook is a powerful addiction. But give yourself a relatively short time frame and it will feel doable. One caveat: You can’t compensate with TV. Do something productive, relaxing, or meaningful instead: Clean out a closet, go for a walk, meditate, write a letter to that great-aunt you’ve been neglecting. At the end of your social media moratorium, ask yourself how you feel. You might not even want to go back. If you do, hopefully you’ll be able to maintain more balance and self-control.

Set boundaries around work check-ins. 

According to research from McCormack's firm, The Brief Lab, professionals check their phones 150 times per day and check their email 36 times per hour! That's bad enough during the workday, but for many people the vigilance continues after business hours. To curb constant email checking, draw a hard line around your phone and computer use and don't cross it.

Use 5-minute bursts of focus to stop procrastinating and start getting things done. 

You can either waste spare minutes by giving in to tech-fueled distractions, or you can resolve to be more productive with your time. Block off five-minute segments of time to completely focus on and tackle one particular task throughout the day, starting and stopping on time. If you need more time, add another five minutes.

Plan for unplugged weekends. 

It's all too easy to waste much of your weekends zoned out in front of the computer or the TV. In order not to do this, you need to plan ahead. When you don’t have an activity on the calendar you will probably default to digital devices. Of course you can’t (and shouldn’t) have every weekend booked solid, but McCormack says at least two weekends out of the month should contain scheduled activities and events that will get you away from your devices and help you engage in the present.

Commit to deviceless dinners.

Dinner time can be a sacred time for families. Make a family pact to put down your phones, totally disconnect, and enjoy each other’s company while you share a meal together. Take turns talking about your day and really connect with each other.

Designate screen-free areas at home. 

The places where you and your kids sleep, converse, and eat should generally be free of technology, especially screens. For example, replace the television in the bedrooms with beautiful artwork or family photos. Replace the computer monitor in the living room with a cozy chair and some nice bookshelves to create a reading nook.

"You owe it to yourself to awaken your awareness and begin mindfully creating the life you really desire,” concludes McCormack. "This is a game changer that will help make 2020 your best year yet.”

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