How many times have you looked at your phone in the past hour? Chances are that you’re reading this right now, on your smartphone. You are? You definitely wouldn’t be alone… a recent survey reported that the average smartphone user checks their phone around 35 times a day and spends around 3.6 hours of each day using it!
Having 24/7 access to information, social contact and entertainment has many conveniences and advantages (both business and personal). It allows us to work more flexibly and remotely, to contact people more readily and to access important information immediately. Unfortunately it also means that we develop dependency on our devices, the access to social media and the inability to switch off – particularly when we own our own business.
We become secure in the ability to check on things every few minutes – meaning that we are permanently on standby… and rarely fully present or relaxed. The regular checking becomes a habit and then a psychological need.
Smartphones are very much a part of our lives however it’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to lose control of our own ability to prioritise and pay attention and to be present in situations where it counts. We have physical, psychological and emotional requirements which require us to be engaged in our world on a personal level.
First and foremost, we are human beings. This seems a painfully obvious statement however when we’re surrounded by so much technology, we forget that we’re not supposed to keep up. Often we become slaves to our phones, rather than utilising them and respecting them for their purpose and usefulness.
Technological health is very important – for our health, emotional welfare and for the state of our relationships. It’s important to be disciplined with your attention as you would be with your eating and exercise. Many find that disconnecting from their phones in the evenings have a huge range benefits, including improved sleep.
My partner and I have recently made a pact to both “switch” off from the internet, emails and social media in the evenings from 7pm. It was a real tough challenge at first however it’s definitely been beneficial to our relationship, standard of healthy dinners, quality of sleep and it’s also made me far more productive in the afternoons than I used to be. There are many benefits – the key ones I’ve outlined below.
5 key benefits from disconnecting periodically from your phone:
1- Being present
Enjoying the moment. Watching the clouds, seeing the birds squabble with each other, the old couple holding hands. Being present allows us to see the world and observe our presence in it. It reminds us of our surroundings, our values, what we love and that we have importance and influence.
Being present allows us to reconnect with our partner and family, share in their news – remind them that they are special and valued. We are people, not machines. We need immediate, tangible, real-time and regular reminders of why we are here and why we matter. Ironically the inability to be present often impacts those closest to us the most – resulting in feelings of perceived disinterest, absent mindedness and dissatisfaction.
2- Improved perspective
You saw it on Facebook… with 150 likes. Caroline went to Fiji. She stayed in a gorgeous 5 star villa surrounded by tropical fish. She also has a gorgeous bronzed, fit body and a beautiful bikini that you’re sure is designer.
You haven’t been on a holiday in 3 years. You also know that her teeny weeny bikini probably wouldn’t get over your right knee and you are in fact having to take vitamin D supplements because you are so busy at work that you aren’t able to get into the sunshine. Is that a Louis Vuitton bag she has next to her? Suddenly you want to cry.
The reality is that Caroline’s reality isn’t that simple, or idyllic. The online space is dangerous for comparisons and perceived success because you’re only presented with snippets of information, without the full picture. Smoke and mirrors abound – particularly with social media. Prolonged exposure to social media, paired with the inability to be present can result in feelings of jealousy, loneliness and inadequacy.
The reality is that if you stalked Caroline’s holiday photos a little bit less, you’d have time for a walk around the block… and the sunshine. Limit your exposure to social media – especially if you are feeling a little bit low or dissatisfied. Discover simple activities that you can do by yourself or with others that will boost your mood naturally…. take a walk, enjoy a healthy fresh juice – call a friend. Make a quick list of the things that you love about your life.
You’ll be quickly reminded that your life isn’t as bad as you felt it was 10 minutes ago.
3- Creative thoughts & exploration of hobbies
Distancing yourself from your phone (and checking your email or Facebook for the 50th time) allows you to explore hobbies and other creative interests. It allows you time to think about what you are truly enjoy doing… just for you. Baking, cooking, reading, pottery, colouring or painting? What did you enjoy doing as a child, before all the adulting obligations took over? When was the last time you did it, as an adult?
If you could choose one hobby, what would it be? It could even be learning a new sport like golf or getting back into your swimming.
Try it! Explore your technology-free mental portfolio and get reminded of the things that you love to do. It may mean that you meet like minded people and it develops into something more than a hobby… who knows?!
By opening yourself up to new activities, people and interests you also open yourself up to new opportunities. Opportunities that will bring you far more enjoyment and fulfillment than ongoing and unnecessary incessant Facebook and email checking.
4- Recalibration, relaxation and better sleep
Disconnecting from your phone for an appropriate period of time before bedtime allows your mind and your body to relax and release the tension built up over the day. Pairing this concept with the exploration of hobbies and being present with your loved ones, allows welcome distraction as well as vital re-calibration of priorities and values.
Remaining plugged into your email and social media means that your mind and senses are on sustained high alert, tensions are high and your wheels will be spinning. This state of being means that it’ll take you longer to calm down enough to relax and fall asleep, meaning that you’ll subsequently have less sleep. We know that getting enough sleep is vital for health, wellbeing and productivity. It’s understandable that this process of working late and getting to sleep late will become a vicious and unhealthy cycle – detrimental to you.
The quality of work that you’d do in the exhausted 11pm state most likely isn’t great. Truth be told forgetting about it until tomorrow would mean you’d be able to get it done to a higher standard, in half the time. It’s important to retain perspective on this one. Re-calibration, relaxation and better sleep are directly linked to productivity.
The concept of working smarter to work better has never been more true. Beware the self-sabotaging and deluded concept that the more you work, the more work you do. This isn’t the case. A task or project poorly executed due to mistakes, poor judgment or human error results in more work needing to be undertaken.
A project handled well often results in other projects becoming unnecessary or superfluous, allowing you to direct your energies to other more productive tasks.
A well-rested, inspired and productive individual is powerful and literally unstoppable.
Amazing to think that this could all come from simply being strict with your technology boundaries, isn’t it?!