While technology has profoundly changed our lives for the better, it also has the power to be destructive. We live in an always connected world where our attention can wander from one distraction to the next almost instantly. A 2015 study by the Bank of America even found that over 70% of Americans sleep with their phones next to their bed, further proving we feel a need to be connected even when trying to get some shut-eye.
Having struggled with this balance myself, I made a conscious effort to change the way I approach technology in order to reverse it back from a burden to a benefit. At the heart of this was a decision to switch-off and reduce the time I spent using technology in order to get more done, and I wanted to share some of those changes that will allow you to unleash your productivity.
1. No Phones in the Morning
A productive day starts with a productive morning. We are all aware of the benefits of waking up after a good 7+ hours of sleep and dedicating some time to reading, physical activity, and enjoying a healthy breakfast. But putting this into practice is easier said than done, especially when the first thing we do in the morning is reach for our phones to hit that snooze button.
Even if you use your phone as an alarm, place it outside the bedroom as this will ensure you always get up and out of bed, but after that restrict your use for the first hour of the day. This will allow you to focus on all the things you should be doing instead of immediately checking Facebook, getting lost in cheap clickbait, or even opening up your work email.
Call to action >> Install a no phone in the morning policy.
2. Send Less Email
According to recent research, we now spend 11.7 hours at work and 5.3 hours at home reading and answering emails — every week. We have all had those days where we spend the majority of our time lost in our inbox only to get home and wonder what it is we actually accomplished.
Quite simply, the trick to receiving less email is to send less email.
With this in mind, make a conscious effort to prioritise alternative forms of communication and place email as a ‘last resort’ option.
As a marketer working in a fast-paced agency I often fell into the trap of constant email loops with clients, freelancers and colleagues, so we invested a lot of time and energy in building processes that streamlined our communication through more efficient channels. This includes 15 minute weekly scrum calls with clients, dedicated Slack channels for important announcements, and Trello boards to keep everyone updated on the progress of specific tasks in real time. In addition to developing more efficient communication processes, limit email to specific times of the day, close it when working on other activities, and actually pick up your phone to make a call where you once may have hit that Reply button.
Call to action >> Build practices and processes that facilitate more effective communication through more efficient channels.
3. Turn Off Push Notifications
We live in a time where tech addiction is a serious threat to our health. Turning off notifications is one of the simplest changes you can make that will stop you reaching out for your phone every five minutes. We have all become red-dot-aholics who seek a quick dopamine high, but by eliminating immediate updates of likes, RTs or a new email, you will be able to suppress this addiction. At work, this will enable you to better focus your concentration on the things that really matter, while at home you will become more present with family and friends.
Call to action >> Turn off all your non-critical notifications. Now.
4. Swap Your Screen for a Book
Last year I noticed there was strong correlation between the amount I read and the outputs and outcomes of my work. With that in mind I set myself a goal to read 24 books this year, which works out at about one every two weeks. Depending on how much you read that might seem like a lot or not much at all, but switching a screen for a book will be one of the best investments you can make with your time. After a busy day there is nothing better than crashing out on the sofa and staring into your phone or watching Netflix (or possibly both simultaneously), but getting lost in a book is a great way to let your mind explore new worlds and topics, fuel your creativity, and gain new knowledge and wisdom.
Call to action >> Reserve a dedicated time slot in the evenings for reading.
5. No Phones in the Bedroom
Each day should end as the next day starts; no phones. Studies have shown that the blue light emitted by your phone will negatively impact your ability to sleep, whilst a 2009 study by the University of Sussex also proved that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress by up to 68% and help you relax. Swapping your phone for a book in the bedroom will improve your sleep and set you up for a successful day whilst giving you a competitive advantage over the 70% of the population who sleep with their phone next to the bed.
Call to action >> Read, because bedtime stories are not just for kids.
The question now is, are you willing to make a change?