The advancement of technology in today’s world is head-spinning. Just over a decade ago, we often used mobile phones to simply make calls, and computers were mostly restricted to work purposes.
Technology has the ability to move us forward, helping us advance in our personal and professional lives. It gives us incredible freedom, like taking businesses online and acquiring customers from all over the world, connecting with old high school friends, and sharing important milestones with our network.
At some point, laptops and smartphones became our best friends, accompanying us wherever we go from the moment that we wake up until we close our eyes at night. Some check their phone first thing in the morning, taking it into the bathroom with them, and spend the last hours of the day scrolling on social media connecting with virtual friends. A life without the internet has become unimaginable, leaving many addicted to their phone, taking their work back home to their families and finishing that “last task” during dinner with the kids.
Even though there are so many advantages, it’s important to understand what impact technology can have on different areas of our lives, such as social connections, productivity and emotional health. Establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship with our devices and the internet gives us the opportunity to only be affected in positive ways, eliminating the disadvantages and dangers it brings.
Yet, many of us have a love-hate relationship with technology. We may become victims of comparing ourselves on social media, suffer from a lack of focus or productivity due to chronic multitasking, become emotionally numb to the daily news and experience the infamous “FOMO” (fear of missing out).
We can even lose our connections to the ones around us and find ourselves disconnected from them. We do everything at once, keeping multiple browser tabs opened and working on our phone and laptop simultaneously, losing our ability to tune into one task and go deep into concentration.
As a leader, it’s incredibly important to establish a healthy relationship with technology in order to improve leadership skills, lead teams efficiently and be successful professionally as well as personally. I find that being able to disconnect from the phone or computer supports not only better focus, decision making and resilience, but also overall well-being and groundedness.
Here are four ways to establish a healthy relationship with technology:
1. Limit phone time.
One of the first things many of us do in the morning is we check our phone. We open our email and find an important message, often with the urge to address the issue immediately. We rush to our desk and are taken down the rabbit hole. Before we even realize, it’s 11 a.m., and we’re not dressed and haven’t had breakfast or worked out.
Not surprisingly, it is crucial to limit your time on devices. You may even want to consider making an actual schedule for when to use them. That could include staying offline for an entire day each week and only using technology between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., for example. Most smartphones have settings that will allow you to limit your screen time to specific hours of the day.
Setting rules to limit phone time allows you to set boundaries between your personal and professional lives and, therefore, find a better balance. I find that being able to shut off work after coming home enables you to fully recharge and build better relationships with your loved ones.
2. Collect yourself before using your phone or laptop.
Don’t get caught up in the craziness of the web. Balance yourself with meditation, workouts and plenty of offline activities and interactions. Reboot your brain, and collect your mental energy and focus. Spending time away from the “noise” can have a huge impact on your performance at work. In my experiences, it can allow you to collect mental energy and focus, lead with a clearer mind, and make better decisions.
3. If possible, schedule your incoming emails with an app.
Find an app that collects all of your messages and delivers them exclusively at certain times of the day. Don’t get thrown off your workflow by a little email that requires two minutes of your attention. Scheduling a few time slots during the day to dedicate to emails is much more efficient than shifting your focus away from other important tasks every time you see an email come in.
4. Take breaks and step away from technology every few hours.
Get your eyes off a screen and rejuvenate. Or change your screen to black and white to help your eyes and brain relax when working long hours. Regular time away from the desk, such as a short walk outside, a hallway conversation to get to know the team better or a coffee meeting, not only helps with recharging your batteries, but it’s also a great way to build better relationships with fellow executives, managers and team members, therefore strengthening your leadership.
By using our devices responsibly and becoming aware of the impact they have on us, we can optimize the way they work for us instead of becoming slaves to them. We can improve our personal performance and take advantage of more opportunities. Slowly but surely, our world will change into one that exists offline as well as online, blurring the lines of what’s truly important in life without being aware of how we change our priorities. I believe that re-evaluating how we use technology is crucial to our well-being and our overall performance as leaders.