The wonderful thing about technology is that it provides a platform for us to connect with others anytime, anywhere. Unfortunately, that's also the biggest drawback to all of our screens and devices. Tethered to smartphones, tablets and laptops, it's all too easy to let technology dominate everything from working relationships to business hours. You quickly start ignoring the people you are with because you can't see beyond the screen flashing in your purse or pocket. Here are five ways to get back in sync with the real world.
- Create new habits. Constantly checking emails, texts or social media updates is not only distracting, but can become an unhealthy habit. In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, they found that 51% of professionals surveyed checked their phones continuously during vacation, 70% checked within an hour of getting up, and 48% checked on the weekends. If you are compelled to check your iPhone several times a minute, it's time to set some new rules for yourself in order to focus on the tasks in front of you. Disable the "ding" that signals when a new email arrives in your inbox. Try checking messages on the hour and designating two or three specific periods each day to respond.
- Stay "people focused". The whole point of technology is to more easily build relationships with others. In reality, we're often so preoccupied with reaching out to people in other places that we ignore those in front of us. Face to face time with colleagues and clients has a real value; don't diminish it unintentionally with multiple glances at your device. Resist the urge to text or check your emails on your phone during meetings, and position yourself so that you are not hiding behind a laptopscreen and can easily maintain eye contact with everyone around you.
- Establish "technology hours". If you are texting clients at 6 a.m. or 9 p.m., not only will they be impressed with your round-the-clock dedication, but they may start expecting you to actually be available to them at random hours. Limit communication strictly to standard business hours unless it's truly an urgent matter that can't wait until the next business day. This not only preserves your personal time outside of the office, but also shows respect for others by keeping non-urgent messages to a minimum after hours.
- Communicate by email rather than text. For the times when you can't resist losing a thought and you want to make sure your client gets your message first thing in the morning, an email will come across less invasive than a text. While emails may be set to alert as well, it keeps the conversation in the business arena instead of mixed in with countless texts from friends and family.
- Power down daily. When we're connected 24-7, it's impossible to get the time necessary to unwind. Designate an area to place your smartphone or tablet when you walk in the door at night. If you absolutely can't leave it alone until morning, set a specific time to check messages, then put it back to charge for the evening. Keep your phone away from the table, the living room and definitely the bedroom to allow yourself to completely relax.