1. What can entrepreneurs do to fight digital overload?
I would suggest controlling technology rather than letting it control you. Here are some practical ways to do that:
- Rather than jumping at the sound of every electronic notification, designate three times a day to check email and social media and limit the time you spend responding. This strategy provides uninterrupted blocks of time in your day where you are not disturbed by outside requests and meaningless distractions.
- Don't let your phone be the first thing you reach for in the morning. By doing so, it immediately flips you into productivity mode, and it's hard to come back. Start your day with five minutes of something that fulfills you like savoring your coffee, reading the newspaper, cuddling with your child or spouse.
- Set expectations by responding to requests during reasonable work hours. If you respond to texts at 10:00pm or on a Saturday morning, colleagues and clients will believe you are available anytime day or night and will continue to sabotage your downtime.
- Give your phone/laptop a home to enforce healthy work/life boundaries. When you walk in the door, place your devices in a designated spot rather than carrying them into the bedroom or having them tethered to your side. If you work from home, shut the door to your office, or physically put away the devices when work time has ended.
- Make a point to do something non-tech related each day. Perhaps it is simply getting outside or engaging in something that brought you joy as a child like playing an instrument or creating something with your hands. Making it a habit to step away from technology and work, even for a few minutes, provides perspective and restoration.
2. Gadgets are distracting -- what should they do about meetings and office rules?
In my home, it has been established that humans take precedence over devices. This means if a human being walks into the room, you look up from your device and greet him or her. In addition, if you are in the presence of a human being, you speak to them instead of interacting with your device. In my home, there are times and places for device usage. We use technology as a tool, not a crutch. I think it would be highly beneficial for companies to have similar expectations in their work environment, reinforcing the value and importance of human connection and interaction. When meetings are conducted, leaders should make a point to model and expect common courtesy from attendees when someone is speaking. They could say, "Bill is about to take the floor, let's turn off our phones and give him our undivided presence and attention." Leaders should also model the importance of face-to-face conversation within the building rather than relying solely on electronic messages for communication. This practice would not only help avoid miscommunications, but it would also provide health benefits from the physical movement it would require.
3. I've heard about a digital fast -- is that a good idea and how long should it be?
Because digital sabbaticals allow you to reconnect with your loved ones as well as yourself, I highly recommend them. I would start small if this is something you have never done before or find challenging. Start with a weekend day. Notice the benefits of being offline all day. From my experience, it offers peace and renewal because you can immerse yourself in your world rather than in the fast-paced, information-saturated online world. Because you are not "getting lost" on the Internet, you suddenly have more time to do what your heart desires. Eventually you will want to stretch out your media breaks to entire weekends and then vacations. It's important to note that any media break -- no matter how brief -- can be beneficial and restorative. Celebrate your decision to step away from the online world and relish the impact it has on your soul. I've found that digital fasts improve my focus and heighten my creativity, resulting in a better work performance.
4. How do they solve the problem of needing to get work done but avoid being obsessive about tech?
When I was taking an honest look at the cost of my overly distracted life several years ago, it occurred to me that work, technology, and life were all bleeding into each other to the point there were no longer any protected areas. Daily distraction was being invited into the sacred spaces of my life. It didn't matter if it was a moving vehicle, the bedroom, Saturday mornings, family vacations, or even the middle of the night -- my devices and multi-tasking ways were a constant in every area of my life. Creating designated "work time" and "living time" and sticking to it enabled me to overcome my obsessive tech habits while still being productive.
5. What's the best way to make "hands free" a habit?
By creating daily Hands Free rituals -- like walking the dog without your phone each day, savoring that first cup of coffee while sitting on the porch, or having uninterrupted Talk Time with your child at bedtime every night, living Hands Free becomes a way of life. You begin to look forward to these pockets of freedom where you give yourself permission to be all there and take in the moment.
Early on in my journey to live a more present and meaningful life, I designated several 'Hands Free' times throughout my day. This meant temporarily pushing aside the phone, the computer, and the to-do list to be fully present with someone or something meaningful in my life. The times that were most conducive for me to be Hands Free were first thing in the morning, afterschool, dinnertime, and bedtime. Sometimes the Hands Free increments were short, like ten minutes, and other times they stretched to an hour or more. But even the short time increments became routine and their consistency had a profound impact on my relationships and wellbeing. Connective Hands Free daily rituals not only provide a solid foundation for your relationships, but they also provide life-changing perspective to anyone living in a culture of distraction and overwhelm.
This post is part of an editorial series produced by The Huffington Post as part of our monthlong "Work Well" initiative, which focuses on thriving in the workplace. The goal of the series -- which will feature blogs, reported features, videos, and more -- is to present creative solutions you can use to take care of yourself as you take care of business. The effort is also part of The Huffington Post's "What's Working" solutions-oriented journalism initiative. To see all the content in the "Work Well" series, visit here.