The digital age is challenging us individually and collectively. The current work environment is dominated by information overload, 24/7 connectivity and continuous distractions. We live in an attention economy and managing attention is a crucial part of creative and productive output. Given that technology is here to stay and the amount of distractions will most likely increase, it is time for you to train your attention muscle and find ways to engage with your devices in a more wholesome and productive way: The choice to make is not between giving up all your social media accounts and going back in time to 20 years ago. It is more about looking at our somewhat addictive behavior when it comes to our devices and start taking control of how and when we engage with our devices instead of being managed by them. Below I will share with you 8 tips from my work with corporate clients on how to engage with technology in a more conscious way. I hope you will find it useful.
What You'll Need
What You'll Do
- Train Your Attention Muscle With Mindfulness Meditation: Modern neuroscience shows that mindfulness meditation is like going to the mental gym. Going to the mental gym on a regular basis changes your brain structure, strengthens your attention muscle and improves your ability to focus. Noticing in the meditation that your mind has wandered off to a thought instead of your breath is directly applicable to noticing in daily life if your attention has wandered away from your presentation to making your shopping list or checking your phone. In meditation you also learn to detach your attention from your thoughts and bring it back to your breath. This helps you to detach your attention in daily life from following the impulse of checking an incoming email and instead enables you to return to your presentation. To get started with mindfulness meditation, check out my youtube channel http://bit.ly/2iCh5OR
- Make Checking Your Devices A Conscious Choice: The next time, you feel an impulse to check your phone or emails and interrupt your workflow or conversation with your partner, co-worker or child, ask yourself if this is really what you would like to do in this particular moment or if it can wait. You might also take a few conscious breaths to interrupt the unconscious reactivity and then return to whatever you were doing.
- Never Check Your Emails First Thing In The Morning: You might have a habit of using your phone as an alarm clock and check your emails first thing, even before kissing your partner. While this is common practice, this is pretty much the worst way to start your day when it comes to productivity and it significantly raises your stress level. When you wake up in the morning your body is full of cortisol and adrenalin. If you check your phone and immediately see 30 new emails, you will most likely feel stressed and get into reactivity mode instead of making a conscious and strategic choice of what needs to be done. Waking-up each day, you have a choice of how you want to start your day. You can grab your phone, check your emails and immediately get dragged into other people´s priorities. You can also take a few deep breaths, pause and center yourself before you step into the busyness of your day: ask yourself what is present at the level of your mind, body, breath and the underlying feeling tone.
- Switch Off Your E-mail Notifications: Experiment with working off-line several periods during the day. Experiment with switching-off your email notifications. If the thought of being off-line for several hours freaks you out, try with 20 or 30 minutes to start with and see how you go. If you are worried about missing urgent emails from your boss, tell them about your choice of working off-line to be more productive and ask them to call you in urgent matters. I have actually hardly ever seen anyone getting that call.
- Minimize Temptations: Instead of having your phone at your desk next to you leave it in a drawer or in your bag. This makes it slightly less convenient to constantly check your phone and you will also not see the constant blinking when new messages arrive.
- Bring Curiosity To The Urge To Check: Very often when we are waiting in line or for someone in a restaurant or when we just have a few free minutes, there is a tendency to immediately grab our devices and screen through new messages. How often do you find yourself not finding new messages and then continuing to go on to news sites or to just re-read old messages? All of this in an attempt to keep on doing something instead of just being with your thoughts and feelings. It can be quite powerful to bring curiosity to this urge to check for news. How does it feel? Is it a thought, a feeling in the body, an emotion? Then make a conscious choice if you would really like to check your phone right now.
- Regular Digital Detox: I regularly go on silent retreats in monasteries where I will be without my phone for 3-10 days. While this sounds scary to most people in the beginning, this is usually mentioned as one of the biggest revelations for participants, noticing how happy and calm and peaceful they feel without their phone. If several days freak you out or are not feasible, try spending half a day or a day per week without your phone and see if that makes a difference to your overall happiness, enjoyment, calmness and depth of conversations with others.
- Use Technology To Interrupt Your Automatic Pilot: According to Harvard Professor Ellen Langer, “most of us are on autopilot virtually almost all of the time”. We are either ruminating about the past or worrying about our future. Setting an alarm on your computer or phone three times per day that reminds you to pause and check in with your breath helps you to become more present and interrupt your automatic pilot.
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