Learn to ‘block’ – with blocking apps, blocking noise and blocking out time for you
An alien race visiting our planet might conclude that we worship our phones. We seem to treat them with great reverence. We’re constantly staring at them. If there’s a wait longer than say, 45 seconds, we whip out our phones and lovingly check them. If the aliens had no concept of ‘worship,’ then their next – rather reasonable – conclusion might be that we are slaves to our phones. And this conclusion isn’t too far away from the truth for many people. Technology is supposed to work for you – you aren’t supposed to work for it. But our ever-present tech is negatively affecting millions of lives.
Untold hours of human work time and productivity are being wasted, and all the while, the pressure of being connected 24/7 is actually making us less connected as we retreat to our devices instead of spending time actually doing real things with real people. Research shows about a third of people – and it really could be much more – find that being able to “unplug” after work is a very significant challenge. –But it isn’t impossible. You don’t have to be a slave to Tech. Here are three great ways to help reverse this master-slave dynamic.
One: Choose what you want to see and when you want to see it. Millions of people across the globe are discovering the benefits of what are called ‘blocking apps.’ This is an app that after downloaded and installed syncs across all your devices and allows you to set up parameters for your internet use – a great tool that can begin training you how to stay focused at work. You could block email for a period of quiet time, or you could block social media during times you should be working or studying, or you could block the whole web if that’s what’s needed.
This blocking technology is all about helping you reinforce your aspirations and choices. Many people tell themselves, “Okay, I’m not going to check my sports team site because I’ve got stuff to do!” But then comes the thought… “Well, maybe I’ll just take a sneak peek… just for a second!” Before long, you look up and an hour and a half is gone – time you will never recover for any amount of money. Blocking apps provide a hurdle to jump over.
You would have to go back through all of your settings and unblock particular things, and although it’s possible to do so as all the choices are up to you, having that ‘wall’ to climb is what most psychologists would explain as a “nudge.” Such a nudge is just enough pressure to convince your brain that it’s not worth breaking a previously made commitment… the result from downloading a blocking app can be the development of a bit of ‘digital discipline’ which can translate into new habits.
Two: Another big way you can make technology work for you is taking the blocking app idea one step further by remembering to set aside some completely blocked time every day during which you preferably get some exercise. This means if you have a half an hour exercise program, it’s probably better not to watch TV at the same time. Or, if you were to go out for a walk or bike ride, stick to listening to some music or maybe a podcast. Keep your eyes off screens for a little while every day as a way of reinforcing that YOU are in control… and also to give your eyes a break! Think about what you put your poor eyes through every day! They need rest.
Three: And finally, this may sound slightly trivial but invest in a good pair of headphones. We’re talking about noise-canceling, high-quality headphones. If you prefer the in-ear type that’s fine; others prefer the large ones that cover your ears like your muffs. These should preferably be wireless, and as noted, noise-canceling. Many times, you won’t even use these headphones to play music or other sounds… but simply as a way of providing some peace and quiet from traffic noise or loved ones coming back from work or school. And of course, when desired you can always play some chilled-out music at a low volume in the background if that suits your style of working. But the point is to be able to have a reasonable degree of silence when you need it.
You might have noticed that all three of these suggestions involve some sort of blocking. A blocking app to block websites when you choose, a period of blocked-out time from screens, and blocking your ears from noise. It’s easier said than done, but after getting into the habit of blocking, you very quickly should be able to reassert some control over your life and start becoming the dominant partner in the technology-worker relationship. Remember people, make it work… work for you!