Smart Strategies to Help You Combat Techno-overload and Protect Your Well-being

If your screen time has skyrocketed recently, these tips can help.

Westend61/ Getty Images
Westend61/ Getty Images

For many of us, sitting through back-to-back Zoom meetings was one of the defining experiences of the pandemic. And as workplaces continue to explore the hybrid or partially-remote structures that work best for their employees, many are still struggling to set the boundaries necessary to avoid the virtual meeting fatigue and skyrocketing screen time that have come to define our new world of work.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the small strategies that have helped them cope with techno-overload and protect their focus and well-being. Which of these tips will you try?

Stick to a tech-free morning routine

“I’ve been working on being more grounded and present during digital gatherings and feeling better after. To avoid tech overload, especially during long days on zoom, I like to start the day right with healthy food, like a smoothie with spinach. I then take a long walk in the morning and fill a pitcher of water for the day.”

—Josh Feldman, founder, Northampton, MA

Schedule 5-minute tech breaks

“I avoid techno-overload by setting up my agenda with 5-minute tech breaks carved out at least twice a day, and ideally up to four times. Those tech breaks are used to either do a brief meditation or to go out for some fresh air. I don’t bring my cell phone with me!”

—Giancarlo Molero, Miami, FL

Turn off app notifications

“‘What consumes the mind controls the soul’ —what a powerful saying. I’ve had to force myself to step away from the constant information being tossed at me every minute of the day. My top tip includes turning off all app notifications. I also like trading the evening news for an evening walk at least twice a week. 

—Jennifer Smith, career coach and consultant, Buffalo, NY   

Try a digital detox day

“One strategy that’s helped me cope with techno-overload and protect my focus and well-being is by using a digital detox. A digital detox is a time to take a break from the internet and social media. It’s a chance for people to reflect on their online habits and gain perspective. Digital detoxes can be as easy as going on a digital fast for one day. If you are struggling with too much information, take a break from the internet and spend time doing something else.”

—Kristin Marquet, business owner, New York, NY

Carve out “no meeting” times

“My bandwidth needs protecting as I’m a creative strategist, so I need optimum bandwidth to innovate. To avoid techno-overload, I avoid calls in the morning, as they tend to disrupt my flow. I honor this boundary by having minimal meetings and calls in general. I keep my phone outside of my bedroom, and I journal every morning before starting my day.”

—Sian Gunney, creative strategist, UK

Use a notebook for writing tasks

“I work from home so it’s really important for me to find ways to monitor my tech time. When I have a meaty writing task, I’ve gone back to using paper. I pick up my notebook and go somewhere completely different to write, ideally outside in nature. Stepping away from writing at the computer cuts out the distraction of notifications and writing in a different environment has enabled me to be more creative and write more fluidly. It also stops me from editing as I’m writing. It does mean that I have to type up what I’ve written, but I find that to be a really useful stage in the process where I can refine my ideas much more effectively.”

—Clodagh Beaty, Co-creator of the Emotional Salary Barometer, Madrid, Spain

Remove your phone from your bedroom

“I started sleeping with my phone in a different room so I wasn’t tempted to look during restless nights or first thing in the morning. I’ve converted to a step-counting watch with an alarm so I can wake up when necessary. It helps me move through my day more easily and with more calm.”

—Henna Garrison, mindset coach, Sicily, Italy

Set a timer for social media

“Social media can pull you in, and next thing you know, you’ve been browsing for 45 minutes and have accomplished nothing. What makes matters worse is when you realize the time flew by and you are even more stressed than before. To avoid this trap, I set my cell phone alarm when I jump on the internet or start to use social media apps. When the alarm sounds, I have a feeling of control and I get back on course.”

—Rudy Chavarria Jr., founder, college web mentor, Walnut, CA

Do a “notification audit”

“The one strategy that’s helped me cope with techno-overload and protect my focus and well-being is to be very thoughtful about notifications.  This means that notifications are turned off for almost everything, and that the only notifications that are actually useful, like calendar notifications, are two minutes before the meeting instead of the default 10-15. This ensures that the only notifications I have on are those that help me with my goals, and everything else, those things that would draw me away from focus and my goals, are turned off. Doing this ‘audit’ means that I don’t miss things and I’m actually more consistently responsive than if I were to be checking every time I heard a ping or ding.”

—Alexis Haselberger, time management and productivity coach, San Francisco, CA

Silence your phone during meetings

“I leave my phone on silent so it doesn’t interrupt me during meetings because I am easily distracted by the sound of notifications. I can still see notifications come in, and even if it is face down it still vibrates and like Pavlov’s dog, I pick up the phone to see what the notification was for. Recently, I was sick and kept my phone on ‘night time mode’ during the day so that I could rest. As I got better, I realized there isn’t much on my phone I need to see or respond to right away. So now I have taken to keeping my phone on night time mode during the day and it is helping me to break the habit of checking my phone unnecessarily.”

—Julie Demsey, hypnotherapist and coach, Sydney, Australia

Keep a designated “work zone” at home

“The technology that allows us the flexibility to work from home becomes a double-edged sword when our technology results in our work-life bleeding into our downtime and creating difficulty switching off.  I protect my home environment by limiting which areas are ‘contaminated’ by work, creating a dedicated work zone. This became particularly important when trying to be productive from our homes during the pandemic. When you use areas of your home for dual purposes, like using your kitchen table as a workspace and then a place for eating, it creates confusion for your mind and body, never quite allowing us to switch off completely.”

—Sarah Vizer, health and wellness coach, Queensland, Australia

Reframe how you see social media

“With so much technology available, it can be easy to have it run all aspects of our lives, but that’s no way to live. I choose to use technology as a tool and not make it my reality because we are not supposed to be run by machines. Accomplishing this requires asking myself, ‘Why do I need this innovation?’ As a result, I prefer only to use Zoom for intro calls, or when I’m presenting, I have a handful of apps on my phone, and I don’t use social media for anything related to my lifestyle or interests. I’m still connected, but my existence lies within the true nature of reality, where peace, joy, and love are found.”

—James Petrossi, president of PTNL, Austin, TX

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