Wasn’t life so much simpler a few years ago? Before smart phones and tablets? Back when, in order to check your email, you had to go to a computer (sometimes, one at the office), log in and download? When, if someone wanted to talk to you, they either emailed you or (gasp) phoned you?
Think back to a time when you weren’t in the midst of a continuous barrage of information. Remember what it felt like? No notifications to read, no tweets to catch up on, no messages to respond to.
Sounds peaceful, doesn’t it?
As much as I love to talk about the positive impacts technology has had in our lives, there’s a shady underside too. Our lives are being dominated, for several hours a day when we aren’t sleeping, by inputs. Whether we’re marathoning Season 2 of The Walking Dead, or swiping open our smart phones 10 times an hour, we are consuming information at a frenetic pace – especially compared to how it used to be. Is it healthy? Well, judging by the number of people on a daily basis that I see complaining about how busy they are, how overwhelmed they are, and how they aren’t really getting much of the important work done, I’d say no. So what’s a busy technophile to do?
Reduce your inputs. Slow down the stream. Regain control over the messages that are bombarding you, so you can recapture some of that feeling of a simpler time – a time before always-on, always connected. Create some space so you can recapture the part of your brain that has been filled to capacity with information.
Here’s how you can start reducing your inputs, today.
Get Control of Your Notifications
Do you really need to get a ping, a vibrate, or a flashing screen every single time someone’s trying to get your attention. NO! I want you to pick up your smart phone right now. Go into notification settings and turn off EVERYTHING except that which is imperative for your family or work. ALL OF IT.
Personally, I have shut off all on screen notifications that don’t directly impact my family or work. My phone doesn’t ding whenever I get an email. I see on screen notifications for emails from the 5 family members and colleagues on my VIP list and that’s it. I see text messages and phone calls, and the occasional tweet from accounts I have to monitor for work. No more. Everything else I leave off, and check only when I have time.
I also make extensive use of the Do Not Disturb feature on my iOS devices. If I don’t want to hear from anyone (except my biz partner or family in case of emergency), then I flip to DND mode and live in notification-free bliss. I also have a timer that switches me to DND mode as of 8pm every night and doesn’t switch back on till 8:30am.
If you are notified for every little thing that happens, you are being interrupted sometimes dozens of times a day, to deal with what someone else deems important. Try switching off your notifications for a whole day, and see how you survive (hint: you will). Enjoy your productive notification-free bliss!
Take a Connectivity Break
Some people take technology breaks, where they turn off all their electronic devices for a period of time. I prefer to take connectivity breaks. Why? Because my technology devices are important tools to my creative process. Even if I’m not connected, I still want to have access to certain things – my music, my writing apps, and my e-Reader. So, instead of doing away with technology altogether, instead I just shut off the internet connectivity. The easiest way to do this is to turn off the wifi or switch to airplane mode. But you could also just switch to DND mode so you can still access music streaming etc., without the distraction of notifications.
Connectivity breaks are amazing ways to reconnect with the things that are important. Without the deluge of information coming in from all directions, you’ll have a clear space to do some real thinking and real work.
Here’s another new habit to form. Instead of checking your phone while standing in line at the grocery store or sitting in a park, keep it in your pocket. Look around, observe and take in the real world for a while. It will do your brain and your soul some good.
If you really want to get down to the business of doing the important work, you must find ways to reduce the influx of information. Getting control of how your devices talk to you is the first step. The rest is figuring out what you’re going to do with all that extra time!