From time to time, another article or study shows up about our addiction to electronics. We’ve seen several recently, so we thought it might be a good time to check in with just how much time we spend with those marvelous gadgets that should make our lives easier. They should, right? You can be in the know all the time. You have all your contacts, your to-dos, your calendars and apps and e-mail in the palm of your hand or in your briefcase going wherever you go. There’s an answer to every question just a Google search away. But if you’ve ever looked up from “just a minute” of laughing at cat pictures or scanning your Facebook page to find that an hour has passed, you know those helpful gadgets can turn into stealthy time-suckers. And they can rob you of in-the-moment pleasures, too. How many times have you caught yourself checking your emails or checking into a location instead of really listening to the friends you met for dinner or finding out how your child’s school day was? We call it multitasking, but we all know it keeps us from being truly present.
At My Personal Valet, we’re definitely not saying you ought to give up the gadgets—we can’t imagine life without ours! But here are a few tips to help bring a little balance back into your relationship with all those electronic helpers. Try one or two the next time you feel the urge to hit that refresh button.
- Try to go a day without accessing your Facebook page. Or an entire weekend.
- Next time you meet friends at a restaurant for dinner, play the game Phone Stack. Decide when it starts (after everyone has “checked in”? after everyone has ordered?), then have everyone put his or her phone in a stack in the middle of the table. The first one to give in to the urge to check a text or answer a call or pick up the phone for any reason picks up the check for the table. You all resist temptation? You not only enjoy each other’s company, you split the bill.
- Set specific times/intervals during the day to check email and social Websites.
- You’ve probably set “electronics time” limits for your kids—one hour of TV/video time or an hour of computer time each day, etc. Make it a family effort and follow the same schedule yourself.
- Don’t just limit the amount of time you allow yourself to spend using your gadgets and computers: limit when you use them, too. Maybe only during business hours (especially if it’s your work device) and never at the dinner table or when you’re on vacation.
- If it’s hard to set a limit on how long you use your device(s)—say it really is required for work—try to set a specific number of hours each day when you don’t use it (when you’re asleep doesn’t count). Increase that number gradually until you feel like you’re back in control (and be honest).
- Set a timer when you start surfing (or whatever else you’re doing online or on your phone) to go off every 15 minutes. You don’t have to stop when the bell rings, but it will keep you from losing track of the time you’re spending online.
- Turn off all portable devices during all meetings, classes, presentations, weddings, funerals, movies, while you’re driving…you get the idea. We all know, deep down, when it really is inappropriate to take a call or check a text. So turn it off. And that doesn’t mean put it on vibrate or silent. Turn it all the way off.
- Ask friends and family when/if your texting, etc. bothers them and ask them to help you be aware of when you’re checking out of a conversation to check an email. (Be prepared for possibly hard-to-hear answers here—it may be bothering people a lot more than you’re aware that it is.)
- Keep a journal. Jot down every time you check email, send a text, go online, etc. and note how much time you spend doing it. Keep the journal for a day or two and see how much time you’re potentially losing to your devices. Then look at your schedule and decide where it would be easiest to cut back.
- Keep in mind that these gadgets should help you to simplify your life. Let them do that, even if it means turning them off so you have more time to simply enjoy yourself.
Need more tips on finding ways to find more time in your day? Call My Personal Valet and let us take some of the to-dos off your list.