Technology is brilliant for making it possible to work flexibly, respond quickly to urgent requests and to stay connected to people remotely. Feeling unable to switch off, being distracted by incoming messages when we need our full attention on a conversation, or feeling anxious when we can’t access the network are less desirable.
Many people find it difficult to turn technology off, or even to delay responding. People worry that they might miss an important call, or be left out of the loop on a critical decision. Then there are workplace expectations about acceptable time frames to respond to emails.
There is also the “feel good” buzz we get from technology that keeps us constantly checking, and unable to turn off alerts. The anticipation, and then the reward we get from checking a message has the same neurochemical effects as some of the addictions – like gambling or drugs. A shot of dopamine – the feel-good neurochemical – is our body’s way of rewarding us. The problem with dopamine is the “hit” doesn’t last, and we seek the next one. Maybe the next email or text message will be something interesting or exciting . . . I’ll just check and see . . .
The cure for the obsessive checking trap, and the “I can’t turn it off in case I miss something” worry is to find strategies to switch off. You might choose to have a day a week when you completely disconnect and recharge your physical and mental batteries by doing anything that doesn’t involve a screen. Or experiment with periods of time in the day when you go off-line – perhaps for an hour or two in the morning when you focus on tasks that require your full attention. Try turning off email and message alerts and set up an automatic reply letting the message sender know you will get back to them within a certain time frame.
What are some strategies you have found for managing technology rather than having the technology manage you?