As someone who manages my own business and time, I can often be found tapping away on my laptop in comfy bars, cosy coffee shops and on a nice day, occasionally amongst nature in a nice park. I was out and about recently and found a neat little bar with free WiFi where I chose to pause for a while and work. Two young guys took up a spot at the table behind me and I became interested in their conversation about how they make their relationships work effectively − with particular reference to the rules now imposed in their households with regards to technology access.
We’re all aware the constant bombardment of contact and information can be overwhelming, although, I’ve noticed recently that some are more aware of this than others. For instance, what’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Once upon a time I used to specifically get up early to get through my utterly ridiculous amounts of emails. Coffee at the ready, I’d use this beautiful, energised time of the day to plough through my inboxes, followed by a mindless scroll through Facebook. I’ve since realised this is not at all the most efficient use of my most alert and creative moments in the day. Similarly, prior to going to bed − and following nights and nights of restless and less-than-enjoyable sleep − I came to understand that answering emails and being entranced by the iPad’s bright glare up until bedtime is far from a positive practice.
Though I’ve made these discoveries for myself and have adjusted my routine and behaviour, I have a tough time trying to influence my nearest and dearest who still insist that they do not have time to put the technology away, so that period up until sleep and first thing in the morning is when they’re used to catching up on social and clearing emails.
How healthy is that though?
This is why I was intrigued to hear these boys (probably under 30), saying that they have rules in their households. One said he and his girlfriend have set aside an evening a week where technology is turned off the moment they each arrive home, and they use this designated evening to go on a date, read, talk or… you get the idea. His mate countered by agreeing that “time off from tech” is necessary; he and his partner switch everything off at 7pm, and tech is not allowed in the bedroom (and no, they do not need a phone for their morning alarm − they purchased an old fashioned alarm clock for this purpose… yep, they even talked about this).
Experts ranging from business coaches to sex therapists are all advocates of rules for technology, and scientific studies are consistently proving that [inadvertent] obsessive use is negatively impacting on our mental well-being and our closest, important relationships.
After listening to these boys and investigating a little further, I’m wondering if the under 30s have it sussed. They’ve grown up with this tech, and while they will all say they simply cannot live without their mobile phones, they also seem to take the tech in their stride.
The solution is possibly more simple than the actual devising and implementing of “rules” though. Being mindful of your behaviour is really the trick. Do you really want to still be working at 8pm − will you be thanked for it? Or more importantly, does it enhance your life and relationships? Is scrolling through Facebook the activity you most want to engage in right before sleep (keeping in mind the majority of “life updates” here are contrived anyway? First thing in the morning, is email correspondence going to make your day fantastic, or, would a nicer way to start the day be going outside for a walk, taking five minutes for a breath and noting positive intentions for the day, or even spending 15 minutes writing the book you have in your head or updating the blog you love but have neglected for 18 months?
New technology rules │ 5 of my favourite top tips from today’s experts
- Schedule time for emails throughout the day; do not let it be an ongoing, all-consuming task; designate one hour mid morning, one in the afternoon. Also, begin to manage client/boss/co-worker expectations about when you will respond. It IS possible.
- Choose to be mindful about when and why you’re on social media. It’s got a time and place, but in the end, your time is better spent communicating with family and friends, learning a new skill/hobby, or reading a book.
- Studies have shown the light from mobile devices is akin to sunlight, and tricks the brain into thinking it’s “awake” time. Moral of the story − spend some time away from that screen before going to bed, and if you can’t sleep, whatever you do, don’t turn to it for companionship because you’ll be up even longer.
- Do you pick up your smart phone or tablet at any given moment when you’re not working or eating; Is it really necessary, or are you doing it out of habit? Further studies have found our behaviour with regards to tech is effectively an addiction, and consequently, we’re missing out on being present and experiencing life… for the sake of a notification that someone has liked our last post, or followed us on Twitter.
- If nothing else, start your day by writing down a positive intention you hold for the day ahead, e.g. I will have a happy, confident and positive day at work. Try this for a few weeks before you switch on the (usually negative) news, or scroll Facebook to see what everyone else is up to – put you and your own positive mindset first… you might be surprised at how your day does actually shift!
By Sarah Blinco. Originally published Get it Magazine, March 2015