Today’s digital world provides an opportunity to be more connected personally and professionally than ever before. The notion of being available at a moment’s notice when time is critical is alluring.

The knowledge of this accessibility makes us feel compelled to respond (and to expect a response) … even when a response is an interruption and inconvenient.

The truth is, there are very few time critical emergencies in most of our lives. Studies increasing show devices make us less productive, less focused and, more importantly, increasingly disconnected from our real lives, resulting in increased stressed and unhappiness.

So, how do you re-draw the lines when it comes to technology?

Begin by designating specific times as technology free. Initially it may feel scary to be disconnected; the key is to start small and gradually increase your tech-free time. Take a look at 5 easy ways to begin your digital disconnect.

Make Meal Time Technology Free
Meal times are a great place to start limiting device use, especially if you are dining with others. It’s a small and focused amount of time to commit. Try leaving your phone behind or turning it off and putting it away. Focusing on the pleasure of the meal and who you are sharing it with will make it more enjoyable. If you’re dining alone, dust off your people watching skills, grab a good book or just let your mind wander.

Turn Off Notifications
Constant updates are distracting… period. Our days are filled with notifications and our brains are wired to notice them. “If you’re allowing yourself to get interrupted five times in a half an hour, you’re never actually focused in that time,” says Jesse Fox, PhD, head of Ohio State University’s Virtual Environment, Communication Technology, and Online Research (VECTOR) Lab. Eliminate notifications that are not essential to family, friends, health or work. You won’t miss them and you will be amazed by your increase in productivity.

Make Your Bedroom A No-Tech Zone
Invest in a great alarm clock and reclaim your bedroom. The same distractions you experience with your phone during daylight hours will follow you into the night. A quick scroll through notifications and social media can easily eat up an hour of your sleep time. Plus, the blue light your phone emits tricks your brain into thinking it’s daylight, making it harder to fall asleep.

For those of you who use your device for sleep tracking, the efficacy of the data collected is still highly suspect. Additionally, overanalyzing your sleep is likely more of a hindrance than a help.

Get Outside… Without Your Phone
The next time you’re outside on a beautiful day, leave your phone behind and make the experience in nature more enjoyable. Activity, sunshine and nature will make you calmer and happier. Aside from missing out on great sights because you’re looking down at your phone, there are significant downsides to distracted outdoor activities. People who focus more on their device than the world they’re navigating are regularly injured. Countless phones have been dropped into lakes, streams, canyons…. So, leave your device behind and soak up the sights and sounds of the great outdoors.

Monitor Your Usage
The time we spend on devices creeps up insidiously. Even technology companies recognize people’s desire, and need, to limit usage. There are dozens of apps to help you monitor and tailor your technology time. Using technology to curb technology may seem ironic, but our phones are here to stay, and are an important tool in managing both our personal and professional lives. Take advantage of your phone’s ability to help you disconnect.

Technology enhances our lives in countless ways but easily becomes intrusive. Finding balance through small changes will make you happier and healthier. Choosing to take to control of your usage is empowering and freeing. Find some time today to walk away from your device and don’t look back!

Call To Action
Do you think my tips were helpful in re-directing your focus and goals? Please share this article and shout out to me on Twitter!

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