About six months ago my morning habit was to wake up, reach for my phone to turn off the alarm, and with bleary eyes, I’d start checking my email and reading the news. Before I knew it, I’d somehow gotten out of bed and gone straight to my desk and become immersed in my workday – minus the getting out of pajamas and eating a good breakfast.
For some people this type of routine may work, which is great. But not for me. I somehow ended up being less productive, less clear-headed, and more disorganized. I could tell I was getting less done based on how few items were checked off my to-do list.
After reading more on how to improve time management, I began to see that I needed to add in analog time for myself so that I could transition into my workday better. Whether it was having a cup of coffee and reading, going for a jog, or doing laundry, I realized that my mind craved quiet. All the buzzing and glare of emails and phones was not the way to go.
In my case, I was enslaved to my smartphone because it satisfied every urge I had to check email. For you, it might be distraction in the form of texting, checking facebook, or just being plain glued to the screen while in the company of others.
Technology these days is so amazing, but the danger is that we stop using it as a tool and instead make it our default source of entertainment.
There are so many ways that the compulsion to log on and see what’s happening can impact our lives. It affects our personal interactions (or lack thereof), our driving, our brains and ability to focus, and most definitely our productivity.
The three conscious changes I made are:
1. Avoid checking email first thing in the morning.
We wake up with the most willpower that we will have for that day, and it only wanes as the day goes on. It is wiser to spend that energy on something more meaningful and rewarding than launching into the call-and-response nature of email-checking.
Noted CEOs often mention they use their mornings for real-world activities like exercise or private time. They often say that if there is a true emergency at work, they will receive a phone call, but otherwise computer work is off-limits. If this habit works for them, why wouldn’t it work for you?
2. Turn off text message and email alerts.
I know. This seems insane, especially in today’s busy world. You might wonder “Then what’s the point of alerts?”
It’s not that notifications are not useful, however the constant buzzing and beeping becomes a distraction more than a tool. It’s human nature to want to respond immediately, but this is the trap of multitasking! Don’t do it!
Try this for a day and see how you feel. Start small, like turning off alerts when driving. Really notice how your mind works or feels distracted without being able to fulfill the need to grab your phone. The added bonus is here is there’s no temptation to text while driving!
3. Do not read the news or check any social media and email one hour before bed.
Your body needs the proper signals to shut down and bring on good sleep. Light emitted from your phone or computer inhibits melatonin, a hormone that is critical in regulating your normal wake-sleep cycle. Just like starting your day right is important, so is ending it in the best way you can. Try reading, spending time with your family, or make that hour before bed you-time.
I’ve followed these very tactics, and though it was strange at first (yes I had the shakes), it did become easier as the days went by.
Want to know the best, unexpected effect from all this effort? Having time away from my phone freed up enough space in my day to train for and complete my first 5K EVER. As a non-runner with terrible stamina, this is nothing short of a miracle.
This made such a huge positive impact on me that I was inspired to create a week-long unplugged experiment to share with everyone. You can get it here:
I’m still amazed that something so small has made the biggest difference in my day.
Can you imagine what might change for you if you give these three tips a try?
Please share below what you think you could get done with 2 hours of unplugged time in your day!