11 Oct Take Back Your Power from Technology with these 7 easy steps
Each of us is dealing with increasing distractions.
Whether you’re working from home or in an office, it’s time to take back your power from technology and other distractions.
Constant emails, texts, social media, notifications, phone calls, voice apps, and even the next big show on Netflix are all impacting our productivity and personal effectiveness.
Things have changed since my first job working at an advertising agency. Back then, if I wanted to contact a friend, I couldn’t use my work phone; I would have to wait until I got home to make a call. Interestingly no one died because I couldn’t reach them.
Now distractions are the norm, another thing to become aware of—and swat away like mosquitos buzzing in our ears.
The Harvard Business Review reports that the average worker is interrupted 50—60 times a day, with 80% of those interruptions being unimportant.
Our phones are a tool which we’ve forgotten how to use.
When running the Take15 workshop, I hold up my mobile phone and ask, ‘what is this?’ Inevitably, participants respond, ‘it’s a phone,’ a ‘it’s a communication device’, or ‘it’s how we stay in touch with people.’ My answer is always, ‘No, it’s actually a tool.’
The Collins Dictionary’s definition of ‘tool’ is: ‘a device or implement used to carry out a particular function.’ It doesn’t say a device to be carried around all day or attached to your hip pocket!
A tool is something we use to carry out a particular function. Like a toaster, we use it in the morning to make breakfast and then put it away. We don’t then put our toaster in our handbag and take it to work.
Technology’s taken over our hearts and minds, and we need to take them back.
We’ve forgotten who’s in charge. Technology and other distractions seem to have control. We are not robots, we’re in control, and as humans, we get to ‘choose ‘how to spend our time.
Our phones are incredible tools; no longer just used to make phone calls, they have become one of our most significant sources of distraction. For many of us, the distractions afforded by our phones have become habits embedded in our day.
You’ve probably been constantly checking your phone for so long that it feels normal; you probably don’t even register that you are doing it most of the time. Responding to that Facebook message, email, or answering that call means having to refocus on the task at hand, and how does that impact your productivity?
If some days feel like you’re in the back seat of the car with some crazy person at the steering wheel, maybe it’s time to put yourself back in the driver’s seat and take control. This is about managing your energy, so you run your day, not the other way around.
So, with that in mind…
Here are 7 steps to take your power back from technology and other distractions:
Become aware of how you spend your time
This is vital. Take note of what you are doing during the day. Are you doing something which repeatedly distracts you from using your time effectively? For example, after completing a task, I would reward myself by checking what my friends were posting on social media. It wasn’t something I did consciously; it just happened. Even though it felt good, it did lead me down many rabbit holes and wasted lots of time. I’m not saying don’t take breaks; just be mindful of when you do them and for how long. If taking a break and checking Facebook drains rather than energises, then a walk in the fresh air might be more effective.
Plan your day in the first 15 minutes
Science tells us that the best time for planning and prioritising tasks is the beginning of the day when your mind is the freshest. So, grab a coffee, find a quiet spot and plan your day using pen and paper. It shouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes. Doing this will set you up for a productive day, especially if you do it away from any distractions. The relief you’ll feel will be so worth it. And the best bit, you’ve freed your brain from holding stuff so it can perform higher functioning activities.
Keep asking yourself, ‘Is this non-negotiable, or can it wait?’
Unless you’re a doctor or health worker, few actual ’emergencies’ need our immediate attention. So, why do we feel the pressure to respond to every email and notification straight away? Why isn’t it okay to get to it later, or God forbid the next day? If you find yourself responding to anything that comes across your desk straight away, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate? Before responding, slow down and ask yourself, ‘Is this non-negotiable, or can it wait?’
Take emails off your phone
Do you need to be contactable 24 hours per day? I’ve chosen not to connect to email on my phone. It’s another distraction that interrupts my day and stops me from mindfully spending time with my family and friends. My emails are on my computer and easily accessible when I get to them. If someone wants to contact me urgently, they can always call or text.
Don’t let others book meetings for you
Unless you employ a personal assistant whose job is to manage your calendar, why give others access to your diary to book meetings for you? Create a link on a booking app like Calendly, and highlight specific days and times when you are available for meetings. You choose. That way, you’re in control, and there are no surprises.
Limit phone calls and text messages
To avoid your impulse to respond on cue, choose to limit phone calls, notifications, and text messages, especially when working on important projects. Set the “Do Not Disturb” mode on your phone, so only your ‘favourite’ contacts can reach you. This can include family, friends and important business associates. Think about who ‘needs’ to be able to contact you right away. Is it essential that your friend who wants to know if you are free for a drink on Saturday night speaks to you ‘right now’? What about your child’s school? Or your elderly parent’s nursing home? Only include under favourites those people who must be able to disturb you.
Feed your brain specific information/instructions
As humans, we have evolved to do the easiest things first. For example, instead of working on the steps to complete the project, we may check our emails. Why is that? Our brain needs specific instructions to complete an action. If the task is something you’ve done before, and the steps are straightforward and familiar, your brain says, ‘WooHoo! Let’s do this.’ However, if it’s a new or large project and the steps to complete it are unfamiliar, then your brain may resist and choose an easier task. Chunking the project down into small manageable steps is vital to avoid procrastination. When your brain has a step-by-step plan, it will stop resisting and start doing. That’s got to be a good thing,
Easier said than done, right?
I know these 7 steps may seem easy enough, and you can start working on them right now. You can try them for a week, and let me how you are doing.
If you want to minimise the impact of technology and other distractions even more, getting in the right mindset is key to your effectiveness.
Imagine how much better you’d feel if you were running your day rather than your day running you. I have a 15-minute daily routine that would help you be more focused, motivated, and productive.
We’re all stressed enough in life right now. So, I’d love to help you de-stress from the pressure you’re putting on yourself and show you how to balance your fixed time commitments around everything else you need to do.
Stop wondering why you’re not conquering your to-do list and find balance without the stress.
Like to learn more about Take15
I have been where you are right now.
Looking back on two decades of starting, growing, and selling businesses, I wish someone had shown me how to pause, take an in-depth look at my overall strategy, my working practices and guide me to do that with confidence. I wish someone had shown me how to manage my workload so I didn’t feel constantly overwhelmed.
Now, I work with business owners, just like you, to manage your energy, and tackle your workload, so you don’t feel overwhelmed or out of control.
I do this by delivering my Take15 life-changing program. I’ll show you how to master your personal accountability, making you more productive by utilising the latest research in applied brain science.
Ultimately, I’ll inspire you to fall in love with your work again and start feeling good about the way you live.