When Technology Addiction Takes Over Your Life
Are you a tangled mess of BlackBerrys, emails, PDAs, iPhones, laptops, and cell phones? Here’s how to untangle your life and find healthy balance.
New Solutions for a New Age
Nearly two years ago, Scott Dockter, president and CEO of PBD Worldwide
Fulfillment Services Inc., decided to take Casual Friday one step further, and
created email-free Fridays, where employees are encouraged to talk offline to
resolve issues, by picking up the phone or meeting face-to-face.
As a result, he saw an 80 percent email drop-off in the first year and
noticed a reduction of unnecessary reports sent and excessive cc'ing.
The policy changed habits, not just on Fridays. "People started talking
to each other," says Dockter, who now leaves his Treo at work at day's end.
"[Before] we were robbing each other of our culture."
Hotel manager Rick Ueno went cold turkey from his PDA two years ago.
Following his recovery, he started the BlackBerry Check-In Program at the
Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, allowing guests to detox without their
gadgets during their stay.
A Canadian government agency has barred employees from using BlackBerries
for work overnight, on weekends, and holidays "because they're throwing off
staffers' work-life balance."
How to Work Smart
It's very much possible to disconnect, says Tim Ferriss, best-selling author
of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New
Rich. "The single greatest enemy of creativity is overload," he
says. "I believe creativity requires a relaxed acuity, which is rendered
impossible by checking email every half hour."
- Experiment with short periods of inaccessibility. Your life won't
implode, Ferriss says. "As with any addiction, there is a period of
withdrawal and anxiety."
- Leave your cell phone and PDA at home one day a week. Saturday is a
good day to cut off email and cell phone usage. "For most people, it will
feel like a two-week vacation," Ferriss says. "The psychological
recovery it offers is pretty unbelievable."
- Set a "not-to-do list." Don't check email before 10 a.m. to
avoid immediate reactive mode, Ferriss suggests. Set intervals to check email,
for example, at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. Use an auto-responder to explain
that you can be reached any time on your cell phone.
- Eliminate rather than streamline whenever possible. Lose the RSS
feeder, Ferriss says. "If you have an addictive impulse with tools, lose
the tool," he says.
- Hire a virtual assistant. "A big part of priority management is
teaching others tasks," he says. "A big part is getting over yourself.
You don't have a superhuman email checking ability."
- Buddy up. Don't go it alone on the road to recovery, Hallowell says,
because you're likely to revert to your old habits. Ask a colleague,
administrative assistant, or spouse to help you enforce the new rules.
- Learn moderation. "I'm not anti-technology," Hallowell says.
"Some is good for you, but too much is really, really bad."