We live tech. We breathe tech. We need it. We also can be bereaved by it.
The notion of “boundaries” with technology seem laughable, if not improbable. I’m not here to tell you to divorce your smartphone. Hell, no. I’m here to share we can make our tech experiences calmer, more concentrated and controlled by applying micro-strategies that optimize your performance – and improve our mental and physical health, too.
Here’s why realistic and strategic tech boundaries are so important – especially for politicos and civic techies: excess screen time and compulsively checking phones, emails and bombshell news headlines can increase anxiety, depression and create a sense of urgency.
As the University of Virginia’s Timothy Wilson has argued, our brains are not equipped to handle the 11-plus million bits of information arriving at any given moment. The buzzing and popping triggers a brain-body response called “fight-flight-freeze,” releasing stress hormones that compromise our judgment, communication and memory. We can become more reactive, impulsive or avoidant (to make it stop). We experience greater boundary creep, making us feel like we have less time than we actually do. And, as we know, time is a scarce and sacred resource – especially as Election Day nears.
Sometimes it’s the little things that set us off. Often, a ringing phone, a bombshell newsflash or the inability to find that file are the things that light the brain’s “fight-flight-freeze” fire. Let’s regain control, shall we? Below are four quick and dirty hacks to common tech-induced triggers that reduce online clutter for a more effective offline experience.
Let the phone ring three times before picking up. Each time the phone rings, breathe deeply. On your inhale, think of a word that describes you as a kick-ass politico and, as you breathe out, think of your intention for the conversation. Smile. Then, pick up the phone with focus, presence and appreciation for yourself and the other person. This hack also applies to responding to emails and on social. Repeat the three breath exercise sans the ring before you respond. Now, make big things happen.
Notifications can put us on edge both literally and metaphorically. They interrupt. They are unpredictable both in timing and in content. There are multiple ways to reduce the notification trigger effect.
For one, if your phone is on a vibration setting, turn off the vibration feature. This eliminates the body shot response, causing an unnecessary jolt to your nervous system.
Two, disable your notifications for the nonessentials, like podcasts and if you’re feeling super brave, social media. Finally, turn off all notifications during meetings and other times when you do not want to be interrupted. Want to really challenge your attention muscles? Leave your smartphone in the other room. Go ahead, prove it to yourself.
Screen spring clean
This little ditty is from Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google and Time Well Spent Founder: Make your home screen clean and pristine! It’s primo real estate that can trigger a sense of calamity (from clutter-induced and attention overload) or serenity – especially with an awe-inspiring screensaver image. Clean your home screen, leaving only the essentials like maps, email, calendar, tunes, texts, settings and contacts and other essentials. Podcasts and AR dinosaur games can be stored elsewhere. Cap at ten.
Bonus round: All in to win?
You can significantly boost your concentration and reduce distraction caused from multitasking by doing one eight-minute or (to really tone up) three, 10-minute attention hacks of breath counting.
Set a timer for 10 minutes. Count your breaths from 1 to 10 on the exhale. When you reach 10, count down from 10 to 1. Continue counting up and down until the timer sounds. Not there yet? That’s cool. Read Meditation on the Campaign Trail? Yes, It’s Possible to learn how to get started.
A big obstacle presented by the buzzing and the popping – in addition to the stress response – is our productivity. Sad to say, there really is no such thing as multitasking. The brain just doesn’t do it. Rather, it switches from one task to the next at rapid fire – and when our attention returns to the initial task, it’s significantly reduced.
After a switch, it can take several minutes for you to regain full concentration. By reducing focusing on the task at hand through these breath exercises and reducing vibration and visual interruptions, you’re improving your mental performance. Go ahead. Be proactive and regain control of your time and space. Safeguard that valuable energy. After all, now is the time to go big, drive strong and be you.
Frieda K. Edgette (@FKEdgette) is a credentialed International Coach Federation leadership coach, neuropolitics professor, and pioneer for political well-being. She’s facilitated more than 150 civic-change initiatives on five continents, and helped more than 1,000 politicos lead through change.