If you have been having trouble achieving tasks planned for the day and you feel stressed out even as you check your email frequently, keep up with social media posts and online chats with colleagues, maybe you need a brief tech detox. You are not alone.
Studies have shown the bad effects tech obsessions can have on health, happiness and productivity: the screens strain our eyes. The 24/7 work messaging culture makes us depressed and stressed. The Internet preys on our most obsessive and addictive tendencies, according to a BBC.com feature.
What you need is "going off the grid." Given the prevalence of technology in our lives, going completely off the grid may be impractical. Ghosting on social media or flushing your phone down a metaphorical toilet is “abdicating responsibility for navigating the world we live in”, says Pamela Rutledge, a psychologist who specialises in media.
Instead, detox is about learning to cut corners throughout the day, being more mindful and freeing up time that lets you treat the technology as just another task.
“Freeing up cognitive bandwidth and energy – that’s the goal,” says Rutledge.
“Neuroscientists have clearly shown that the human brain is not designed to multitask, but serial task,” says Sandra Sgoutas-Emch, psychology professor at the University of San Diego.
Your brain needs time to catch up and refocus on each new task, and “studies show that focusing on one task at a time allows your attention to be maintained and complete the task more efficiently.”
One way to combat technological distractions is to focus on one task at a time.
Constant switching between devices, activities and browser windows builds anxiety and creates distractions.
“The increased volume means we have to switch tasks more often,” says Matthias Holweg, professor of operations management at the University of Oxford. “Every time we switch from one task to another, we lose set-up time, so are less productive overall.”
Creating an hour each day at work that keeps you off the digital grid is simply a matter of smart planning.
Check your email at certain points throughout the day, not continuously.
And you can also plan short interludes where you are not interacting with any technology at all.
“Schedule times during the day to take a walk outside – leave your phone,” says Sgoutas-Emch. “If the weather is bad, walk around the building and speak to colleagues. Take a real lunch.”
Although there’s no full escape from technology for many of us, the power of an hour away from it can go a long way.