Feature Article: Control Your Technology…Don’t Let It Control You
Today’s children spend an average of 15 hours a week watching television, playing video games, and surfing the Internet. Is there any wonder why childhood obesity has risen at alarming rates? Laptops, PDAs, pagers, cell phones…the technological devices that were supposed to make our lives simpler are taking away our lives. We’re working harder to keep up with our own inventions. The “always available” nature of technology wreaks havoc in some people’s personal lives. The price of being available 24-7 is the loss of time for loved ones, reflection, relaxation, and spiritual growth. It’s time we asserted control over technology and used it to enhance our lives, rather than robbing our lives of sacred time.
Limit your television watching. When I was a child, I was allowed to watch two hours of television each week. When the Sunday TV Guide came in the newspaper, I would plan my shows for the week. My two brothers and I couldn’t flip in between the channels, because we might chance upon a “forbidden” show. So I grew up on Little House on the Prairie and The Wonderful World of Disney.
I didn’t grow up watching television, and I don’t watch it as an adult. When I married John, I thought he watched an inordinate amount of television. It soon became as issue, and I asked him to go on a “TV diet.” He turned off the cable for one month. Today he will tell you it was the best thing he ever did. He broke his addiction to TV and created time to dedicate to his hobbies. Did I say addiction? How many hours would someone have to devote to gambling or drinking before you’d label it an addiction?
I’m not suggesting you rid yourself of all television. If you feel particularly rested, motivated, educated, or inspired after watching a particular show, fine. Otherwise, find something else to do! Think of all the times you complain about having so much to do. TV has a way of robbing you of quality time to accomplish the things that really matter to you.
Limit your web surfing. Ever sit down to look something up on the web and later look up at the clock, only to discover that you just spent three hours surfing in cyberspace? Mindlessly surfing the web not only wastes time, but also brings you lots of information that is of little use to you. Go to the web with a specific purpose in mind, focus on the task, and skip the rest.
Limit your use of the computer for entertainment purposes. Instead of playing a game that returns no measurable result, think of something “fun” but useful to do. I used to have a card box full of stained and mismatched recipes and magazine clippings. So I decided to type them up and save them as a “cookbook” to give to my family for the holidays. I created a numbered table of contents with different categories, just like a cookbook: appetizers, casseroles, main dishes, etc. I created a file folder named “Recipes” and created a separate document for each type of food. I put the printouts in plastic page protectors and filed them in a three-ring binder behind the appropriate tabbed section. It was a hit with my family, because I’d gathered all the old family favorites. Now any time a recipe is stained or I want to send a copy to a friend, I print it out. Or you can learn new software applications, put your budget on the computer, start a family website, or create digital photo albums.
Take control over your cell phone. When traveling, some people work on projects that require thought and creativity. Others like to listen to audio books or learning resources during their commute. If you carry a cell phone, you may not have any “unavailable” time. This is intrusive and leads to premature fatigue, resulting in more mistakes and rework. Cell phones can violate your privacy. Pleasurable activities such as lunch with a friend or a brisk walk quickly lose their pleasure if you’re required to be “on-call” at all times. The resulting feeling is that you have no control of your time, which increases your stress and lowers your effectiveness on and off the job.
Be selective to whom you give your cell phone numbers. The only person who has my cell phone number is my husband. I don’t have the number printed on my cards, and I don’t give it out to anyone. If a client needs to reach me urgently, John calls me with the request and phone number. Set limits on your cell phone usage so that it works for you. Negotiate appropriate boundaries and deadlines with others. If you find that you cannot live without your cell phone, know that you’re in trouble and take steps to be less reliant on it.
Don’t let the web interfere. It’s easy to spend incredible amounts of time on the web and let it interfere with your personal relationships. Are your Internet relationships threatening your personal relationships? Ask yourself these questions:
• Do you spend more time on the computer emailing with pals than you do with your significant other?
• How would you feel if your spouse could read your email? Would any of it be considered flirtatious?
• Are you visiting websites or chat rooms you wouldn’t want your spouse to know about?
• Can you spend an evening with your partner without thinking about whether there’s email in your in-box?
• Does your heart beat faster when you see a message waiting for you in your inbox from a certain email friend?
Set limits and stop communicating in affectionate ways with people who may interfere with your ability to remain committed to your partner. Tell your partner you’re sorry you’ve been so unavailable, and make steps to change. Don’t let the anonymity of technology let you cross boundaries you wouldn’t in person. If you’re single, get out and about and meet real people in real situations.
Be present. Avoid the tendency to multi-task at home. Some people don’t feel productive when they’re not doing four things at once (such as driving, talking on the phone, drinking coffee, and putting on makeup). If this describes you, shift your focus. You must be especially attentive with children. On weekends, turn off the technology, slow down, and reinvest in yourself. Don’t go to bed physically and mentally exhausted on Sunday night and expect to be alert and efficient on Monday morning. Draw the line somewhere.
Make it a productive day! ™
(C) Copyright 2006 Laura Stack. All rights reserved.
This article may be reprinted provided the following credit line is present: “© 2006 Laura Stack. Laura is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc. and the bestselling author of Leave the Office Earlier and Find More Time. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or www.TheProductivityPro.com.”