Technology is a gateway for opportunity, especially in a post-pandemic world.
These days, people can run entire companies and grow their careers from the comfort of their own homes. The caveat? Everything is done on a screen.
A Nielsen Company report revealed that adults spend more than 11 hours a day on electronic devices. Even if you don’t rely on a computer for work, it’s possible you spend several hours a day watching TV, scrolling on your phone, or browsing your personal laptop.
And while technology can help you improve your focus and productivity when you use it mindfully, it can become a huge distraction when you misuse it.
“In today’s digital landscape, the ability to focus has become a prime currency,” says Arootah CEO and founder Rich Bello. “Focus drives growth, but when your attention is spread too thin, it can lead to focus debt.”
While the digital age makes it seemingly impossible for you to avoid technology for extended periods of time, there are risks associated with prolonged screen time.
Let’s explore those risks, as well as Bello’s top tips for using technology in the most effective way.
What Are the Negative Effects of Excessive Screen Time?
The physical and mental consequences of too much screen time can be, at best, distracting and, at worst, detrimental to your health. What’s more alarming is that, while these consequences don’t happen overnight, you also can’t fix them overnight either.
Here are some of the repercussions you may face when spending excessive time on tech:
- Increased distractions: “Technology has become the greatest distraction of our time,” Bello explains. “It is a powerful addiction. If you’re not mindful of how you use technology, you can literally waste away your life.”
- Eye strain: Too much screen time can lead to dry eyes and put a strain on the muscles that help your eyes focus.
- Impaired cognitive function: Your mental health is also impacted by screen time. Too much of it can actually cause the gray matter of your brain to shrink, affecting your memory, concentration, and information processing.
- Physical strain: You typically don’t move much when engaging with a screen; this can increase tension in your body, often in your neck or back. Additionally, those who work in front of a computer all day are especially at risk for workplace injuries.
- Sleep disruption: Prolonged exposure to screens can disrupt hormones in your body, like melatonin, leading to poor sleep.
- Chronic health issues: Studies around technology use have shown an increased likelihood of health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
How to Set Boundaries Around Screen Time
Now that you’re clear on what’s at stake for your attention span, and your mental and physical health, perhaps you’re feeling more inspired to take proactive steps to be more mindful about how you use technology.
Here are some ways to do that, taken straight from Bello’s playbook:
- Turn off notifications: From Slack messages to email notifications, we’re constantly bombarded by pings, dings, and pop-ups. Shut off your digital notifications to decrease the possibility of distraction.
- Change your email: Update your email address, then safeguard who you give it out to.
- Check email at designated times: One of the keys to Bello’s success? He only checks his emails at set times during the day.
- Reserve text messaging for time-sensitive matters: “The constant notifications can be a huge distraction,” says Bello. Instead of sending and checking texts haphazardly throughout the day, rely on them for conveying urgent matters only.
- Set boundaries on screen time: “Only surf the web with a purpose,” Bello suggests. To take these boundaries one step further, use an app that tracks how much screen time you use and sets limits for activities such as web browsing or time spent on apps or social media. Seeing how much time you spend on your devices can serve as a stark wake-up call for you to change your browsing habits.
- Be intentional with gaming: Gaming is addictive (and distracting). Unless a game has an educational component, Bello recommends skipping it altogether.
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The Benefits You’ll Reap from Less Screen Time
Becoming more mindful of how you use technology can help you cut back on the amount of time you spend on it. And research has shown that those who spend less time on their devices experience a range of benefits, including:
- Increased productivity: Any device that is connected to the internet can provide you with hours of distraction, but having fewer interruptions enables you to stay focused and productive, Bello explains.
- An enriched social life: Being away from a screen may inspire you to engage with the world around you. People who use technology less often tend to invest more time in their social lives.
- More room to be creative: When you limit your screen time, you’ll have to fill that time with something else. This can require some creativity. You may find a new hobby or activity you enjoy doing that you would have never considered otherwise.
- Improved physical health: Research shows you’re less likely to be at risk for the conditions mentioned above and will have more time to become more active, too.
- Enhanced mental health and mood: People who reduce screen time experience less stress and better moods.
The Bottom Line
Being more mindful of how you use technology requires some effort, but the results are well worth it.
We realize it’s against the norm to look for ways to live away from screens. With that in mind, taking small steps to build positive habits rather than making major changes all at once can help you ease into a transition and increase your chances of success. If you find yourself struggling to build positive habits (or break negative ones), you may want to consider a habit-tracking app, like the Arootah Habit Accountability Tracker, to become more mindful of your behavior, monitor your progress, and stay accountable for achieving your goals.