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How to “turn off”

#self care balance Apr 22, 2021

As I mentioned in a previous communication, many of us feel that we are “always on” and accessible to our personal and practice networks.


I love my smartphone and consider it indispensable to my medical practice and daily life. But sometime in the last several years, I realized it was a growing hindrance to enjoying family time. I was being interrupted with notifications or felt the need to check email outside of work hours.   


That got me searching for ways to enjoy the benefits of the technology while minimizing its downsides.


The most effective strategies I’ve found in my own personal use are the following:


1. Turn off all notifications all the time. Unless I’m expecting an important call, my phone never rings, beeps, or vibrates. 


2. Leave it on the kitchen counter. Whether I’m building one of my companies or building a Lego set with the kids, the phone stays on the counter. I try and practice intentionality in my life. Before I pick up the phone during off-hours, I ask myself whether I really need to use it. 


3. Remove email. If you email with me personally, I’ve got big bold red lettering stating that I do not have email on my device. 


Communicating via the written word requires time and nuance. Email is especially difficult because it is less formal than a letter but more structured than text or chat. The folks in my circles know that if they want to reach me quickly, a phone call or text is best. 


Practicing intentionality, I now sit at my desk to write emails and have been much happier. 


4. Block the apps. I bought an app blocker and love it! By far the best money I’ve ever spent on technology. Apps are designed to be as addictive (“engaging” if you want to use tech industry euphemisms) as possible. Within a few days of installing mine, I was devoting far more mental energy to tasks at hand rather than thinking about what might pop up on social media.    


This week, I encourage you to reflect on how technology affects your life. Ask yourself how you can extract the most productivity from your device while minimizing its detriments. 


Like any effective lifestyle change, take a gradual approach: try turning off a few notifications or trial an app blocker. Check in with yourself before you pick up the phone outside work hours. Talk with your spouse or partner about what you are trying to achieve by unplugging.