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5 Ways to Keep Technology from Overtaking Your Life

Studies show that adults can lose as much as 2.8 hours of productivity a day dealing with and recovering from unimportant interruptions. Often, the distractions come from the beeps, buzzes, and updates from the technology that has become integral to our lives.

While technology can make work easier and more efficient in many ways, it also can keep us unnecessarily connected to the rest of the world, which leads to degradation of our real-world relationships and a decrease in productivity at work. One key to maintaining focus at work is to know where and how to set limits for distracting technology. Further, corralling bothersome technology can result in a clearer head, sounder sleep, and a higher quality of work.

Here are five ways to moderate your use of technology to keep your life in balance:

1. Limit social media.

A quick check-in on Facebook can result in hours wiled away reading articles and checking friends’ status updates. Think through how you’re spending this time. Is the latest picture of your friend’s new puppy or another friend’s political commentary really enhancing your day?

To maximize your productivity at work, which can free up more hours later for personal time, you should limit your social media check-ins to lunchtime and breaks. If you need to, keep you smart phone in your purse or briefcase and don’t keep social media websites open in your browsers. Giving yourself large periods of time to work without interruptions will help you stay focused and be more productive.

2. Focus on life in the real world.

Even when we’re sitting next to another person, technology can draw us into a separate world. The virtual world that we can connect to through laptops, smart phones, and tablets can consume our thinking and our focus and block out the people nearby. These online experiences are completely ours and are not shared with anyone else in the room. Even watching TV together provides a common experience.          

Healthy relationships are key to a balanced life, and spending time friends and families away from the virtual world is vital. Turn off your notifications when you are eating and socializing with others. You should also make an effort to have uninterrupted conversations without checking in with social media, texts, and e-mails.

3. Protect your sleep.

Numerous experts advise that staring at a glowing screen before going to bed can be harmful to the quality of your sleep. Over time, sleep deprivation can affect your moods, your work, and your relationships. A recent Harvard study found that American workers could lose as many as 11 days of productivity a year due to tiredness at work.

According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers found that younger people are more likely to look at cell phones rather than a television in the hour before they go to sleep, which can result in difficulty falling asleep or poor sleep patterns. People who leave their cell phone ringers on may be wakened multiple times through the night by the phone’s audible notifications, further interrupting their sleep.

 The solution? Turn your ringer to silent and give yourself a technology-free window of time before going to bed.

4. Turn off your notifications.

As mobile technology has become almost ubiquitous, so has the expectation for instantaneous replies to electronic communication. However, stopping work to send a quick response to an e-mail or text can interrupt your focus on the task at hand. Unless your job requires prompt responses to communication, try turning off all notifications.

This could mean silencing your phone, including turning off the vibrate feature, and turning off the Outlook notifications that appear in the upper-right corner of the screen when a new e-mail arrives. Instead, set aside times during the day that you will devote to responding to communications, and you can spend the rest of your workday concentrating on your highest work priorities.

5. Don’t be a distraction to others.

While you’re taking steps to keep technology from invading your work, your relationships, and your sleep, be sure also to consider how the communication you send affects the recipient. Do you need to send a text at 11:45 pm, or can it wait until tomorrow? Is the question you’re e-mailing your coworker really important, or could you ask her at a better time? Does everyone absolutely need to be copied on that e-mail or included in the conference call?

Thinking through how to prioritize, consolidate, and schedule your communication can reduce the amount of data and notifications that others receive. Being mindful of your own technology will be one more step toward reducing the constant communication that is becoming the norm in today’s culture.

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