Mindful moments aren’t only for meditations. One of the reasons we create a meditation practice is to cultivate more mindful presence throughout our day-to-day lives. But there are a number of things that get in the way of maintaining that feeling of inner peace all day long — and one of the biggest culprits is technology.
Distractions are abundant in our world — and our laptops, tablets, and smart phones are a big contributor to those distractions. We grab our smart phones when they beep or ring, and pretty much any time we’re bored or curious. This counters productivity if we’re trying to get work done that requires real thinking; it can also disrupt moments of connecting with our family, friends, and real selves.
I am someone who is very easily distracted, and I know I have trouble resisting when I hear my phone ring or beep. So I have to get creative in setting boundaries to avoid feeling like technology has a hold on my life.
Dr. Larry Rosen, expert researcher and writer in what he calls, “The Psychology of Technology,” suggests an easy formula to combat the power our devices have over us. He came up with an easy acronym: ABC.
- A: Awareness. Know what distracts YOU.
- B: Breath. Calm and reset often.
- C: Choices. Make good choices for you.
This first step is critical. Know what distracts you and what helps you reset. Once you have a clear understanding of what steals your attention, you can find a practice that works for you to reduce those distractions.
Since our culture promotes work breaks, vacations, and even time away from the kids, let’s add technology breaks to the list of things necessary to help the mind reset. Here are five ways to take a technology break that have worked for me to minimize distraction and stay focused.
Technology Break #1: Take a Technology Vacation
Designate device-free windows of time to ditch your device and stay in the moment. Here are some ideas:
- Go for a walk every day without your phone
- Turn your phone off every Sunday (or a day of your choosing), making that conscious effort to take a technology break. If you like the idea but aren’t ready to go that far, try just one day a week from noon – 4 p.m.
- Silence your phone every evening from 6-8 p.m. (or another two-hour window of time)
- Take one weekend a month and go somewhere in nature without cell service. If you have more willpower, you can simply avoid using your device instead of going somewhere that doesn’t allow you to connect. I don’t have that kind of willpower, so I like to travel without service.
- Create conscious intentions around picking up your phone: Ask yourself, do I really need that info, or do I need something else?
Technology Break #2: Turn Your Phone Off
This sounds easy, but it’s not easy to follow through with. For many, our smart phone is our source of music, our calculator, and our means of communication and entertainment. Turn it off?! When it doesn’t need a restart?!
If that sounds impossible … try the next one instead …
Technology Break #3: Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode
One of my favorite things about traveling is being disconnected. I get so much done on airplanes, without the distraction of emails, Google, Facebook, and phone calls. It didn’t occur to me until recently that I can just take the same approach when I need to crank out some critical thinking or writing.
I also put my phone on airplane mode 30 or 45 minutes before I got to sleep at night, and I don’t flip it off airplane mode until the next morning, about an hour after I wake up, post-meditation. This helps me start my day in a more present way.
If that still sounds impossible … start even smaller and try the next one …
Technology Break #4: Silence Your Notifications
When you’ve got an important task at hand, turn off your notifications so you won’t be interrupted. This means all app notifications that pop up on your screen, email and calendar reminders that ding or appear, and your phone’s volume.
Technology Break #5: Set Up a Device-Free Zone
Designate one or two areas in your house where devices are not allowed, and stick to your rules. Once you’re used to it, you’ll find yourself enjoying those places most in your home. Good trial zones might be your bedroom, backyard, living room, kids’ rooms, or kitchen table.
Once you begin to incorporate more technology breaks into your life, your instinct to grab your phone for every little thing will decrease, you’ll rely less on technology, and you’ll find yourself more present in day-to-day life.