Stop into any office in corporate America and you’ll be sure to notice the frenzied, hurried, chaotic pace of most employees. Phones are ringing; email and text alerts are sounding, faxes are coming in and out, and computers are humming.
If you think this is just going on in the brick and mortar buildings of big companies, take a look at the entrepreneur doing business from his or her home office. Chances are the same activities are happening. Add to that the whirling of the washing machine from the load that just got thrown in, the dog barking and the gardener knocking on the door who wants your attention for a minute.
Even when you leave the office, there’s no escaping the distractions. Bluetooth conversations continue whiling driving in the car, text messages divert your attention from dinner cooking on the stove, and the noise from your kid’s video game is deafening.
Where in the world can you go for some peace and quiet and escape? Chances are it’s into the on-line world of surfing the web, checking Facebook posts, or playing Candy Crusher. We desperately need a break from all the noise, and most choose the anesthesia of technology.
Technology is a wonderful thing when it’s used to our advantage. But when we abuse it, which sadly, most of us do, it’s detrimental. Technology allowed us to be accessible 24/7, which severely challenges our life-work balance. It also is a source of constant interruption whenever we are trying to get something accomplished. It has left us feeling like there are just not enough hours in the day to get it all done. The result – a society of exhausted, overwhelmed, overweight, out of shape, and burnt out individuals.
In an attempt to survive, we master the art of multitasking and time management. And, we cut back on our sleep in an effort to cross one more thing off the never ending “to-do” list. The solution creates more harm than good.
It is becoming more and more apparent that this way of living is seriously impacting not just our happiness, but our health and brains as well! There has been an explosion of research and information from the laboratories of neuroscience, thanks to the brain imaging technology that is now available. Yes, technology that is teaching us that if we don’t put boundaries on our personal technology, our brains will suffer, and it is detrimental to our health.
Brain research does not support that multitasking is an advantage. For the brain to function optimally, it needs its full beam of attention on one activity at a time. As a matter of fact, the more we multitask, the higher the propensity for error and the greater the drop in efficiency. Ever send off the wrong email to the wrong person, and then waste time and energy profusely apologizing? Or need to rewash a load of wet laundry that is now stinky cause it’s been in the machine for three days?
Same goes for sleep deprivation. Even a single night of skimping on the body’s required 7-8 hours has shown a marked decrease in reaction time, analytical thinking and focus. Fatigue causes an increase in irritability and moodiness, and the propensity to react emotionally rather than logically.
Skimping on sleep can also affect your health and brain in more ways than you can imagine. Chronically sleep-deprived individuals tend to exhibit bad lifestyle habits – reliance on caffeine and sugar, skipping exercise, increased alcohol and cigarette consumption. Chronic sleep deprivation can put you at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and obesity.
As for time management, it sounds good in theory. However, no matter how skilled you are, if you run out of energy and crash, you won’t be able to apply all those time management skills you perfected.
So how can we all survive this distraction epidemic? Make a decision that your health and well-being are your single most important asset, and begin living your life to protect it. Take a personal stand that this is not the way you want to live, and this is not the behavior you want to role model for your children. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
1. Make sleep a priority in your life rather than an afterthought. Shut down all technology at least one hour before bedtime, and keep your cell phone and devices out of your bedroom.
2. Create boundaries around technology use. Keep cell phones away from the dining room table, or in your bag while in restaurants. Stop texting, emailing and talking on the phone while driving. You will not only enjoy the quiet break, but you may just save your or another person’s life!
3. Stop multitasking the things that are important. That includes your relationships. Focus on one task and one person at a time.
4. Create specific times during the day to work on important tasks. Remove all distractions and retrain your brain to focus on one thing at a time.
5. Prioritize self-care. It is essential, not a luxury. Food is fuel, so fuel yourself with healthy, nourishing selections. Schedule exercise and stick to it. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water and non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day.
Take the time out to enjoy your life, rest and rejuvenate. You will come back to all your work refreshed and alert, with a brain that is no longer impacted by all the distractions. You are back in control!
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
For years I proclaimed myself as tech phobic. I was overwhelmed by all the technology I I needed to learn and adopt in order to run a successful on-line business. I must admit I fought it vehemently, only learning what was essential (email, posting my newsletters, using Skype & PayPal, etc.) and hiding from or hiring someone to handle everything else. I had to change my mindset from “I am tech-phobic, thus incapable of learning all of this” to “I can learn anything I put my mind to. And if I don’t enjoy the process, I can hire others to help, train or do it for me.”
What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I appreciate my willingness to “teach an old dog new tricks.” I have learned so much over the last few years. I now use social media to promote my business, software to make many tasks easier and create possibilities that wouldn’t be there without it. I even find myself feeling proud and tickled when I figure out something on my computer. In the past it would get me frustrated or I would have given up.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
I have achieved a life that allows me to thrive both personally and professionally. I have learned to use technology to my advantage, not my detriment. I have perfected staying focused and highly productive in a highly distractible world. I have created harmony in between my personal life and my professional life. Although they are not always in perfect balance, neither suffers because of the other, and both bring me great joy. My greatest goal is to reach, teach and inspire as many entrepreneurs and business professionals to do the same.
We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
Although I do not consider myself a competitive individual, something happens to me when I am on a walking/ jogging path. The moment I noticed another up ahead or coming to me, I pick up my pace. I’d like to think it’s just healthy fun, pushing myself, rather than trying to impress. But who knows? The only thing for sure is that I get a better workout when others are around than when on my own.
“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!)
Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my friends. In a crazy, distractible, too busy all the time world, nothing can relax me more than a chat on the phone or a lunch out with one of my friends. I have dozens of “friends” from all walks of life- business, school, the neighborhood, etc., but a very select few who I consider my BFF. I can totally be myself, share all my secrets, laugh and cry with, and always feel unconditional love and trust.
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