In today’s fast-paced and digitally connected world, it is getting increasingly challenging for professionals to strike a balance between staying online for work and avoiding the pitfalls of excessive internet use. There always seems to be a social media post to check or an email to reply to, which is an overwhelming feeling that can negatively impact people’s mental health. That is why it is essential that we find a way to keep our online activity in check without missing important information and updates. We must find ways to be able to turn off our computers and put down our phones without compromising on our job responsibilities.
The first step we could take to limit our phone and internet use is, well, set limits. We can do this by establishing designated periods for work-related activities, such as checking emails and using social media, and remaining offline at other times. For example, we could vow not to log on to Facebook or X outside of office hours or turn off the Wi-Fi an hour before bed. But we will only be able to adhere to such schedules if our colleagues let us. So, we need to clearly communicate our boundaries to our bosses and co-workers and tell them when we will be available and when we will not.
Similarly, we must designate tech-free zones – physical spaces free from technological distractions. We must declare certain areas in our homes, like the bedroom or the dining room, as tech-free zones where no one is allowed to use any device. This will free us from our digital shackles and give our senses a chance to recover. We may have to force ourselves at first but slowly, we will get used to the absence of digital devices and may even want to expand our tech-free zones.
We should also not hesitate to use the “Do Not Disturb” or “Limit App Use” modes our smartphones come with. These features allow us to silence calls and notifications during specific periods, enabling us to put our phones away and focus on the world beyond our screens. By turning them on during our “offline” times mentioned in the preceding paragraph, we can get rid of those annoying notification “pings” that activate our FOMO and tempt us to check our devices. If no such feature exists, we can also perhaps put our phones on airplane mode.
However, if we cannot afford to let all calls or messages go ignored for professional or private reasons, we may wish to optimise notifications so that we get critical alerts but are not notified of our friends’ gym pics. Most apps and phones allow us to set our notification preferences, allowing us to get essential information without being bombarded by non-urgent messages.
Being aware of our smartphone use is also an effective way to check our digital dependency. We should be conscious, particularly when using social media, so that we know what we are doing and why we are doing it. This will prevent mindless scrolling that can go on for hours and will enable us to log off once we have completed the task we logged on for.
Also, we must prioritise tasks when on our devices. Doing things haphazardly will keep us in front of our laptop or mobile for long without getting anything done. After all, how many of us have found ourselves checking Facebook while reading an e-book or drafting an email while simultaneously downloading a movie? Such “multitasking” divides our attention and makes us inefficient. So, we must arrange our digital work on the basis of importance and make it a point to finish one task before starting another.
But if we have to stay in front of a screen for a long time every day for our jobs then we must incorporate small screen breaks into our daily routine. This can be something like taking a walk every couple of hours or looking out the window every 20-30 minutes. The point is to stimulate your mind and break the monotony. This scribe speaks from experience when he says that such screen breaks can do wonders.
But if we are not able to rein in our digital habits and are not able to limit our smartphone and internet usage, we may need to embrace a total digital detox and seek out camps that eliminate technology from our lives for a set period.
Some compare this to digital rehab but it is actually more of a weekend getaway. Digital detox camps take us away from our phones for a few days by engaging us in offline activities like sports or treks. They rejuvenate our minds and help us get a fresh perspective on the role of technology in our lives.
We live in a gloriously connected world and we just cannot ignore it if we are to excel in our jobs, studies and lives. But we must not let technology consume us.