Creative LeadershipCreativityEngaging Culture

Are You Controlling Your Digital Life, Or Is It Controlling You?

The digital onslaught has become overwhelming. The promise was that in a paperless world, our work would be streamlined and more productive. But in reality, we’re buried under a mountain of apps and our growing addiction to digital devices (especially social media) is getting out of hand. This past week, I sat next to a 30-something woman on a cross-country flight who checked social media on her phone – without a break – for the entire five and a half hours. Experiences like that make me realize that when I have a long weekend or a few days off, it may be time to see how I can get a better handle on my digital life. If you’d like to take a “digital detox” and really discover a way to be positively productive, then here’s a handful of good tips:

First – Fix your email problem:
1) Get out of your email inbox. Your email inbox is for communication, it’s not a to-do-list. Some email programs like Outlook or Apple Mail allow you to create to-do lists right in your mail program, and apps like Things and Omnifocus allow you to easily move certain emails to an official to-do list. Living in your email app is depressing, and quickly leads to information overload – especially with the added clutter of social media. Step one of detoxing is to get a clean to-do list – one that isn’t cluttered with emails.

2) Consider a paper planner. One of the problems I experienced with to-do list apps was they made creating tasks so easy, the list became overwhelming. I still use Things (personal) and Asana (company) for my big to-do lists, however, by using my new “Unique: The Ultimate Planner for Creative Professionals” in print, I’m able to start each day by listing the handful of tasks I actually need to accomplish that day. This has relieved me of enormous stress, helped me focus my day, and then let my creativity be unleashed. You can check out the planner here.

3) Focus on your priorities. What’s really important at this minute? Some research indicates that 40% of a typical employee’s day is spent sending or receiving email. But if you’re spending that much of your day answering email, you’re spending your day responding to other people’s priorities. Stop doing what everyone else thinks is important, and start doing what really matters to you.

Second, create private space:
4) Take the weekend off. God had a reason for giving us a commandment about the Sabbath. Too many people feel the need to respond to social media and email seven days a week. After awhile, your life runs together, you lose your spark, and everything flattens out. Take at least Sunday off from work, and you’ll start Monday with more energy, excitement, and passion.

5) Turn off your notifications. Do you REALLY need to know every time a Twitter post, Facebook update, breaking news, or email comes in? Some experts tell us that every time we are interrupted, it takes 20-40 minutes to get back to that same level of concentration we had before the interruption. Now, think of how unproductive you are when alerts are popping up every 10 minutes on your computer screen or mobile device. Stuff the alerts – all those things can wait.

Last, re-engage with real people:

6) Real people connections matter. Digital tools are important, but we’ve all experienced that moment when we’d rather send a text than talk to someone face to face. We’re raising a generation that values their digital time more than their people time, and that should cause some concern. With the barrage of social media options, we actually live in a culture where we have to be intentional about staying in touch with real people. Did you know that a single phone call eliminates about 35 email exchanges? This week, meet a friend for lunch, take your spouse on a date, or spend an entire day with your kids – without looking once at your mobile device. Relearn the value of real relationships.

Have any other ideas worked to help you disconnect?

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