Financial planning from home means never leaving the office, smart phones tethered to our palms like our lives depend on them, a 24-hour news cycle, push notifications galore...we’re over-stimulated and under-performing. Something has to give. It’s time to prioritize some balance in our lives.
My colleague, Mark Maynard—an account representative at Planswell, had enough. He writes:
“Does this sound familiar? Your alarm goes off in the morning, so you check Instagram. Your phone vibrates and you send a few Snapchats. There’s time to scroll through Facebook in between meetings, you think. Checking social media for 2 minutes won’t hurt, right?
Well, let’s really think about it. What if you’re doing that hourly every day? Every week? Every year? That’s almost 70 hours a year! What would you do with 70 extra hours?
Recently, I decided to completely remove myself from social media. The results thus far have been significant to say the least. Not only have I found I’m more present in the moment, but I’ve also found myself increasing my daily productivity.”
If the thought of disconnecting gives you a panic attack, you’re not alone. Technology is a love/hate relationship for most of us. When you use it to prospect for new business, it’s nearly impossible to walk away completely. The Planswell team has you covered with ten little tricks to limit your device dependency and increase your productivity.
Use Device Features
Use technology to fight technology! Phone fatigue is such a widespread problem that most smartphones are now equipped with some good features to keep usage in check. (If you have an iphone, go to settings -> then screen time to find a handful of ways to leverage the technology features to your advantage.)
1. Track screen time. Making changes starts with awareness. When starting a diet, you might first track what you’re eating. Seeing bad habits in black and white can be sobering, but it also presents an opportunity to see where you can cut back.
Your phone tracks how much time you spend on the device as a whole, but also on each individual app. Social media sites, in particular, are unbelievably skilled at keeping you engaged. They know what content you like and continually serve up more irresistible teasers to keep you clicking. Suddenly, you’ve lost all concepts of time and space. It happens to the best of us.
“At the end of the day, you can see how much time was wasted on random social media apps. It helps to be a bit more cognizant of where the productivity is going.” - Neima Mohebiany, Account Executive
2. Set app limits. Once you see how your time is really being spent, you can decide what’s more reasonable for you. On your device, set limits for how much time you’re willing to spend on each app. The next time you go scrolling down a rabbit hole, you’ll get a message bringing you back to reality.
“You have to be kind of disciplined once you hit the limit because they put the ignore button right there. It's very easy to ignore your own limits.” - Nick Palumbo, Account Executive
3. Mute group chats. There is no better example of the love/hate relationship with our devices than the group chat. On the plus side, it’s convenient to get everyone in the same conversation. On the down side, it’s convenient to get everyone in the same conversation. The near-constant ding of the phone gets annoying real fast when you’re trying to do anything else with your time.
“I mute my friend group text because they pretty much spam all day. It gets pretty distracting.” -Michael Daley, Intern
Muting is different from leaving the group. When you mute, the messages still silently come in, and they’ll be there for you when you’re ready to catch up.
4. Set communication boundaries. This one is a game-changer: when your personal boundaries fail, your device is here to help.
“I’ve worked remotely throughout my whole career, yet I still have people in my life who don’t understand that working from home means working—from home. They call, FaceTime, and text throughout the work day even after I’ve explained I’m at work.” - Clover, Happiness Hero
For those of us who need to be available for clients, colleagues, and new prospects, turning our phones off altogether isn’t an option. iPhone users have a solution with the “downtime” feature. You can schedule some productive time and customize who can get through to you using “communication limits.” The “always allowed” feature lets you customize which apps will be available during downtime, so you can still use the apps you need for work such as Slack, Zoom, or reminders.
Establish New Habits
Set some guardrails for yourself with the goal of making new habits. A few small parameters will go a long way towards freeing you from your tech trap.
"Disconnect, because work can go on forever,” said Vanessa Robinson, an Account Executive. “I have to just put my phone down and turn it off at night—like what I tell my kids to do.”
5. Hard stop. Set a reasonable time each night (or day!) to turn off your device. Completely unplug for at least 30-60 minutes to let your mind rest before hitting the hay.
“I had a nasty habit of watching YouTube or checking emails before going to bed, but I just depleted my sleep. So now I shut off all forms of technology a half an hour before going to bed.” - Dan Lee, Facilitator
6. Only active listening. Make better use of your tethered time by indulging only while being active. Scroll while riding a stationary bike at the gym. Listen to a podcast while doing dishes.
“Instead of sitting in front of the computer or sitting on your couch, go for a walk. Work out. Do something productive while you're listening. - Ermos Erotocritou, Business & Performance Coach
7. Socialize, for real. Challenge yourself to not look at your phone in the presence of friends, family, or —especially —clients. They’ll love your undivided attention and you’ll have deeper connections. You’ll also notice improved memory function when your focus is not split between the real world and the online universe.
Although unplugging altogether may not be possible, some offline time can do wonders for your productivity and mindset.
8. Power hour. Remember back in high school when you started each day in homeroom? It was routine, focused time to knock out some work before the day really got going. No phone, no TV, no distractions. With this one hour each day, you managed to keep up with 7-8 classes, maybe athletics and/or extracurricular activities, possibly even a part-time job. That one hour in homeroom made it possible to manage competing priorities in your life.
Try scheduling “homeroom” for yourself each day before even checking email or Slack. Knock out the most important priority of the day while your mind is clearest.
“I don’t like to take meetings until 9 or 10 AM so I can have a few hours in the morning of uninterrupted time to focus. Throughout the rest of the day, I often just have little chunks of time between meetings, and it’s not enough to get anything done.” - Jen Mastrud, Chief Marketing Officer
9. Take a one-day break. Choose just one day to unplug from social media. Can you do a black out day every week? Once a month? Whatever cadence you can do will be worthwhile.
“Not going on social media for a day does wonders for productivity. I find myself with an extra hour or two out of nowhere. I’m also detectively less angry about things in my life.” - Shaun Esau, Software Developer10. Cancel one thing. Revisit your screen time tracker. Where are you wasting the most time? Facebook? Twitter? Pick one and delete it. You can always add it back if you miss it, but I doubt you will. It’s liberating.
“Cancel your Netflix. I did and it's been good. I don't waste time anymore.” - Nick Palumbo, Account Executive
Not convinced you need to unplug? I'll leave you with this timeless quote. You decide.