I know I’m easily distracted, all too often finding my ‘flow’ seems to be a struggle and when I reach a ‘flow’ state it crumbles around me all too easily. Yet I set myself up to fail each day with the number of tech based notifications and distractions that I allow, all shouting for my attention.
Checking my iPhone or iPad as I wake, email, social media, app updates, checking my notifications when reading an iPad ebook, carrying my devices from room to room as I move around the house, taking photos to gain a like or retweet when out and about, checking my web stats more times a day than needed, checking the weather before leaving the house / office. Reading news articles on Flipboard, Feedly and Zite and being disappointed when they contain similar articles duh!
I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea. I slowly came to the realisation that my tech devices were controlling me, and in doing so, the technology I love was becoming a less useful tool in helping me get things done.
I wanted things to change.
So I sat down away from my devices and had an introspective look at myself and my tech habits. I came to the conclusion that my behaviour could be interpreted as mild symptoms of addiction and one of the main reasons for my behaviour that kept me tethered to my devices was my fear of missing out.
So I devised a plan.
I was going Tech cold turkey.
Over a weekend I performed a system reboot my tech behaviour, an experiment to help me see more deeply how tech was affecting my life, if I could change my habits and what consequences will my changes have, ie will I miss out on things?
The pact I set with myself was to curb my online tech access, from Friday afternoon till Monday, during that time I would not use my iPhone, iPad or computer.
My Mac and iPad was powered down, my iPhone iOS notifications were turned off as I kept my phone on incase anyone want to get hold of me urgently.
Importantly I decided not to tell anyone.
It’s harder than it sounds!
My tech habit was so deeply ingrained it took me a huge amount of focus and willpower to stop glancing at my devices, it’s so subconscious. I found it alarming once I recognise it. Whilst at home my iPhone was kept in another room, whilst at restaurant my iPhone was kept in bag and with a huge effort I even left all tech at home (including my iPhone) for a few hours as I went shopping with a paper list of groceries we needed. (Imagine, no one can get hold of you? How wild is that!!!)
So what did I learn?
I was more productive than I had been in weeks!
I got some longstanding tasks done.
I talked more to my Fiancé. (Rather than listening from behind the glow of an iPad!)
Social media went on without me and no one noticed my absence.
My emails went unanswered for a while longer, no one complained.
I read a lot more. Reading a paperback with no distractions was akin to reading for the 1st time again. No technological distractions allowed me to really get into a book for the 1st time in a long time. If you’re interested I read this paperback, great fun! Rivers of London
When I sat and watched any TV or Movie I watched them intently and enjoyed the experience so much more than when distracted by technology a few days earlier. I thought a quick glance at my phone during a Movie or TV show was ok, yet that glance all too often leads to a link, that leads to share, that leads to a comment that leads to another link, that leads to a notification that says… read me……
The world continued to spin, news happened, I didn’t miss it, it didn’t impact me.
Within 24 hours life seemed that little more simple, I could focus easier and for longer.
By the Monday morning I felt more relaxed and happier. I pushed longer I wanted it to continue.
1 small change to improve my life.
To keep this up I’ve made 1 small change to my tech that’s working great for me. I’ve turned off 99% of all of my mobile and PC app notifications. I vowed to answer NO to the question ‘Would you like to enable notifications’ when I installed a new app.
A small number of notifications remain that assist me in getting things done or being contactable like my reminders app, messaging (iMessage/hangouts/SMS) apps and my calendar app, if I set a reminder it’s probably important! Every other notification is OFF.
Now I am master once more of the apps. I check them when it suits me, not when they Ping & Ding for my attention. I now go days between checking any social media apps, unless I want to. I limit email checking to 3 times a day, unless I want to check more.. My webstats are checked once a week, my apps auto update without me checking for updates and my news now only comes from Flipboard.
So, in advance I apologise to you all.
I might miss your Facebook post.
I may miss your Tweet.
I may even miss the joy of your breakfast on Instagram.
I may be slower replying to your emails.
I might need to be told what’s happening in the news.
I will be more productive though!
Why don’t you turn off or reduce your own notifications and see if you feel any benefits.