This post is by Graham Young, Founder of Disruptive Performance Coaching
Do you know how often you check your phone each day? Pulling out our phone has almost become as natural as walking for many of us.
We’re at a point now where it’s next to impossible for someone to sit alone in public without finding comfort in the powerful device. Because…well who just sits there and does nothing? That’s weird.
The trouble is that most of us are not recognizing the detriment this addiction has on our psychological health, performance at work and how it’s unknowingly sabotaging our relationships. It’s not technology itself that is hurting us, it’s our overuse of it that is crippling the resources in our brain.
In short, technology accelerates brain fatigue on a daily basis. This is a big reason why nowadays, we all feel exhausted at the end of each day, despite sitting at a desk all day long!
What’s going on up there?
Our brain wasn’t designed to operate effectively in the age of information overload. Every time we shift our attention from one thing to the next, our brain is using up additional energy to make that transition happen. This transition can be as small as going from one Facebook post to the next, or moving from an email to a text and then to a conversation.
The more we do this throughout the day, the faster we get tired. Think of your brain like a muscle; every time you shift your attention to something new, it does a squat. Studies say we lose track of our attention 6-10 times a minute. Going with the lower end, that would be approximately 8640 brain squats a day!
The difficulty is that when we experience brain fatigue, it makes it very hard to regulate our emotions. This makes it difficult for us to stay motivated and focused at work and makes it challenging to remain patient with the people around us. Any additional stress in life can cause us to overreact and not be ourselves.
Here are two ways you can conserve your energy and reduce your dependency on technology:
1. Morning Phone Strategies:
After turning off your alarm in the morning, take some time before looking at your phone. Why? The light from your phone triggers your brain to go into a reactive mode. Almost like a fight or flight state. It’s learnt over the years that when the phone is on, that means potential threats are going to start coming your way in the form of emails, text messages and notifications.
You may not consciously look at them as threats, but that is how your brain takes it when you think “did my client email me back?” “did that deal close?” “is my friend still mad at me?” “I hope I got more than a few likes on my Facebook post”.
For the first week don’t look at your phone for 15 minutes, the second week aim for 30 minutes, the 3rd week aim for 45 minutes and so on, until you don’t look at your phone until you leave for work. Obviously this won’t happen every day, but it’s not about never looking at your phone, it’s simply about looking at it less.
2. Make your experiences less susceptible to distraction:
When we have an experience in life, our brain creates a memory of it. This memory is held in the connections between neurons. These neural connections either get stronger or weaker depending on how often you repeat that experience and feel the similar emotions that come along with it. Which makes it easier or harder for your brain to reference going forward.
The trouble is, if we are constantly pulling out our phone with everything we experience, we’re disrupting these patterns that are being formed. For example, if you’re reading a book, but you can’t stop from checking your phone every 5-10 minutes, your weakening your ability to stay focused in that particular state.
The neural connections that had created a memory about reading being calm, relaxing and focused is slowly dissipating. Before when you would pick up a book, your brain could use those inner strengths because they were so strong from being trained from practice. But when we disrupt that process time and time again, we lose the ability to recall those strengths when needed.
You can fix this by what you do before, during and after an experience. Try to give yourself a minute before starting an activity to be phone free. Let your mind relax so it is prepared for this new activity. Once you’ve begun the activity whether it’s going for a walk or reading a book, just take 10 seconds to stop and take in the moment. Recognize what’s going on, the actions your taking and the positive feelings that you get from it. And finally afterwards, give yourself another 10 seconds to appreciate what you just completed and accomplished before doing something new.
This process will help strengthen those neural connections and everything good that comes from those experiences. More importantly this will make you less susceptible to distraction and less vulnerable to temptation.
For more details on the strategies in this article you can watch Graham’s short video here
Image Credit: npr.org
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