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Is Tech Addiction Killing Your Small Business?

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We have crossed the line. Internet and technology use has ceased being about helpful tools to grow and sustain a business. Instead, in many cases it has become an obsession, a compulsion and an addiction. And worse, being wired up all day is not only socially acceptable, it's also socially expected.

And it's not just bad with business owners. The addiction has seeped into the workplace, affecting efficiency and productivity among company employees.

Here's how serious it's gotten:

  • In a recent poll by sodahead.com, 61 percent of responders said that they felt addicted to the internet.
  • A recent study in the Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing showed that on average the study subjects checked their smart phones 34 times a day, not necessarily because they really needed to check them that many times, but because it had become a habit or compulsion.
  • A survey by the American Management Association (AMA) revealed that more than 60 percent of those polled use the internet at work for personal reasons. Some of the most common personal uses include: on-line personal shopping, banking, checking stock prices, watching sporting events and playing on-line poker.
  • According to a survey by the firm TeleNav: 40 percent of iPhone users polled said they'd rather give up their toothbrush for a week than their iPhones. One in five respondents said they'd rather go shoeless than cell-phoneless for a week.
  • Video game addiction is so rampant there's actually a 12-step program for it with meetings in several major cities across the U.S. and in the U.K.

Tech addiction is a nasty thing. Misuse or overuse of technology can leave people unhappy, unhealthy -- and broke. If you or your employees are compulsively checking emails 20 times a day, surfing the net recreationally, or spending hours on social media when there are sales calls to make, customer service issues to be handled, or bills to be paid, your business is not getting the attention it needs. And that puts you at risk for erosion. In short, the obsession and compulsion with technology may be killing your business because you and your employees are wasting valuable time and mental energy.

Of course you can't totally abstain from cell phones and the Internet. Therefore, you have to put them in their proper place. Here are some things you can do:

  1. Limit the number of times you check emails: Check emails no more than three times a day and ask your employees to do the same.
  2. Adapt and enforce an "acceptable use" policy: How strict or loose you want to be with personal use of computers and phones will depend on your company culture. But you need to have a policy. With it, your ROI on employees potentially increases significantly. (As long as your employees know what they are supposed to be doing and they have plenty of work.)
  3. Turn off your own cell phone: Keep your phone on silent for at least part of the day so you can get valuable work done, uninterrupted, on your business. If you're concerned you need to be accessible all the time, hire an assistant as your receptionist and to be the liaison between you and your company.
  4. Set recurring meetings: Schedule meetings so you and your workers know when you're going to get to talk with one another. Everyone should keep notes of questions, thoughts and ideas in the meantime and go over them in the meeting. With predictable times for information sharing and processing, there'll be less urgency around interrupting one another.
  5. Schedule time for friends, family and exercise: Make or break for a business doesn't happen just during work hours. It's also about what goes on in the rest of your life. Maintain your health and primary relationships so you have all the energy you need to grow and maintain a thriving company. Plus, when you give the people you love plenty of undivided attention, they'll have less need to call, text or e-mail when you're concentrating on business.
  6. Stop surfing: Your time is precious. If doing online research is likely to tempt you into the mindless surfing that sucks away your time, delegate the task. Ask a friend or colleague for product or service recommendations, or have your assistant, travel agent, real estate agent, or other trusted associate do the research for you. Then you'll have more time to spend on high dividend activities that pay off best for yourself and your company.