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How to Deal With Digital Overload

digital overload; lots of technology and wires

How do you start your morning? Do you check your phone for the latest game scores or to see if there are any Facebook posts you need to like? Do you scroll Instagram or catch up on texts and emails that may have come in overnight? Maybe you just turn on the TV for a little background noise or to listen to the latest news. Perhaps you spend a few quiet moments taking in deep breaths or some other meditative activity.

When you have a day off do you spend it catching up on email messages or Facebook feed or binging the latest Netflix series or doing something like playing a local sight see-er?

If you find yourself with a spare five or ten minutes, do you watch a funny YouTube video or do you take a walk or stretch or knock something off of your to-do list? Or are you responding to this question with "Hah! I wish I had five or ten spare minutes!"

Undoubtedly, our digital and electronic lives have expanded substantially. In the 1970s, families probably had a single TV in the living room. Now, most households have several TVs, monitors, iPads, Kindles, phones. There are millions of apps available to us In the US, adults spend an average of approximately four hours a day connected to our mobile devices.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I get to spend enough time with my friends and my family?

  • Do I take some downtime or quiet time each day?

  • Do I move from my desk or spend time outside in nature?

  • Do I get to nurture hobbies and activities that bring me joy?

If you find that you aren't spending as much time in your non-digital world as you would like, these strategies may help you:

Bring awareness to how you spend your time

Take a guess as to how much time you spend on your phone. Now use your phone's built-in usage tracking app or a program like Rescue Time. The goal is to bring awareness to how you are spending your time, As you do this, be kind to yourself and say "how fascinating" rather than things like "I can't believe how much time I spent watching YouTube videos".

After you bring awareness to how you are using your phone, ask yourself these questions:

when do I reach for my phone? Is it a certain place or a time of day or when I transition between activities? You will start to see patterns emerge.

Move your phone away from your bed at night

Once you bring awareness to your patterns of phone usage, create some friction to using it. I used to keep my phone charger on my nightstand and told myself it was so my kids, sister, parents (whomever) could get a hold of me in case of emergency. Now, I keep it on a charger across the room and have told my family that I don't check it after 8 PM. If they need me or just want to talk, they can call me. I also have most of my sound notifications turned off. I sleep a lot better now!

Surf the urge

When you find yourself reaching for your phone during your spare moments, try to resist the urge to check your phone. There is research that suggests that urges such as this fade after about 10 minutes. Tell yourself that it is fine to check it, just not right now. Nir Ayal, the author of the book Indistrctable, uses the mental image of an urge as an "internal wave of discomfort" that you are surfing. Waves naturally subside, and so will the urge.

Tame your digital consumption

Try moving your social media apps to a folder on your phone and move it from your home screen. If you have digital content you follow (articles, authors, videos), set a specific time of day and identify the amount of time you will spend on it.

I love the latest and greatest app, especially if I think it can make me more efficient! And technology has provided wonderful breakthroughs in the quality of our lives. Truthfully, though, there are very few of us (including me) who have to be constantly engaged with our devices. It's become a habit (and that is changeable)!


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