“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”– Thich Nhat Hanh
While preparing to board a flight recently I was overwhelmed by something I saw out the window.
O’Hare airport was bustling. A summer storm had just swept through, the sun had returned and flights were preparing to board. Glancing out the window, past the concrete runways, a brilliant rainbow came to life over the horizon. It was absolutely stunning.
I looked to the passenger on my left; then to the one on my right. Neither had seen it. I then looked around at all of the passengers near my gate, each individually entranced by the phone, laptop or tablet in hand.
Realizing there wasn’t a single person admiring the rainbow with me, I was reminded of something my grandfather used to say each time I’d reach for my phone in his presence: “Remember, you own that thing. Don’t let it own you.”
Just how many rainbows are we missing? To better understand how much technology is “owning us” these days – consider the following:
- On average, we spend 11+ hours a day digitally connected.
- On average, we check our phones more than 150 times a day.
- 88% of us use a second screen while watching TV.
- 61% of us feel jealous, depressed or annoyed after checking social media updates.
- 60% of us spend more time on computers than with our significant other… and that is just when we are at home at the same time!
The Impact of Too-Much Tech and How to Minimize It
These facts have consequences that impact our relationships, intimacy, productivity and safety, including:
- Reduced attention spans: A 50% drop in the last 10 years.
- Conflict: Digital communication creates a loss of empathy, decreased effective communication skills and an increase in conflict.
- Work quality: There’s a 10-point drop in IQ when multitasking. Every task we add to our plates reduces the effort we give to any individual task.
- Driving: 81% of young drivers claim they can safely text and drive. In reality, distracted driving increases the likelihood of an accident 23 times.
- Time: We seldom feel we have space to process our why, purpose, life – because we are always ‘on.’
- Health: Those who feel most compelled to reply to messages immediately are the ones that end up needing the most sick days.
So, do we own the technology we use or does it own us? Here are 5 ways to ensure you stay in the owner’s seat:
- Set “no-phone” times for home and work. Set aside specific times when the phone is on silent and not in your reach. It will benefit your productivity and give you space to be present and think.
- Raise the barrier. Charge your phone out of your sight. For extra credit, consider placing it there the moment you get home. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Get on the same page. Schedule both a work and family meeting to set reasonable expectations. Topics might include setting times when you will not be available and how you want to interact via technology (and how you don’t).
- Take control of alerts. The idea of missing something is hard; especially when your phone repeatedly lets you know something is happening. Turn off push notifications so you control when you check in.
- Practice mindfulness. 10 minutes a day in prayer, meditation or a posture of gratitude increases one’s ability to have sustained focus. It’s a great way to untether from tech and plug into what actually matters.
(These stats, their consequences and the tips to rise above them were shared by Curt Steinhorst on my recent Live Inspired podcast. You’ll love his story and learn to focus on what actually matters in work and in life. Tune in here.)
How Minimizing Your Tech Use Will Improve Your Life
My friends, I’m not suggesting we get rid of technology or host cellphone burning parties.
I do, however, think we spend too much time hyper-connected, staring at screens and paging through someone else’s life.
Grandpa was right. You own that thing. Don’t let it own you. Because in the end, the present moment is filled with enough joy and happiness.
And if you are attentive, you will see it.
This is your day. Live Inspired.
What are some ways you manage your technology? Share your best strategies and tips with me and our community in the comments below!