By Alexi Venneri – Contributing Writer
As much as I love the excitement and ever-changing landscape of the technology industry, sometimes it’s nice to unplug. I’m sure most people can relate to juggling the demands of career and family. With such a packed day, when do we find time to relax? Because we’re constantly on the go in an “always-on” society, I think it’s important to focus on downtime—specifically, low-tech downtime. We’ve become accustomed to the regular bombardment of notifications, emails, texts and news updates, but what we might not be used to is taking some device-free time for ourselves and loved ones.
There’s no shortage of research that points to humanity’s need for low-tech relaxation. Technology can absolutely make work and life easier, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t creeping into our lives beyond our consent. According to a study done by the Braun Research Center and Bank of America, people are more likely to think about their phones when they wake up than about their significant others. And if that’s truly the case, it just might be time to reflect on what’s really important to us.
I went through a refocusing process when I first went to Italy with my husband and son. Looking back on the trip, I realized what made it so special—it was just the three of us spending time together with little technology intervention. We loved our experience so much that we actually ended up purchasing the historic residence we stayed in – Castello dei Montali. It’s located on the Tuscany border at the very top of a mountain – overlooking where Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed. Once I was back in the hustle and bustle, I began to reflect on what we can all do every day to keep ourselves from being overwhelmed in our digital day-to-day lives:
Pay attention to the details
Yes, technology is great, but it can be distracting. When screens are filling the space in the little relaxation time we have, we might fail to notice the small things. In the case of us Phoenicians, maybe the pinks and blues of the Arizona sunset just fade into the background. At the end of the day, life is a string of small moments like these, so why not take a moment to appreciate them? Don’t worry, your phone won’t feel too left out.
Think about the value of your time and learn to delegate
IPhone users: did you know you can opt-in to a screen time update? It averages your phone use over the last seven days. If you’re anything like the typical iPhone user, we spend roughly three hours and 15 minutes per day on our phones, according to a report by RescueTime. Getting that weekly, subtle reminder might make you question where your time is actually being spent.
While it’s true that smartphone use is necessary in certain aspects of life, what else can we be doing with that three hours? Maybe we can accomplish some of our personal goals, no matter how small. Or we can take a few minutes to reflect on our thoughts. Either way, we might be spending more time on our favorite devices than we realize.
However, smartphones aren’t the only distractions in our lives. Keep track of what else is eating up your personal time and analyze what you can delegate to others. A great time to delegate is when you go on vacation.
Determine what quality of life means to you
If you define quality of life by the amount of time spent with friends and family, how frequently you exercise and how healthy your diet is, then I have great news for you. According to a study by the University of Maryland, those who spent less time with technology noticed they had more free time for these activities. Additionally, people who unplugged after work experienced a boost in health and happiness. By taking some time away from tech, you’ll come to define your personal benchmark for high-quality living. Maybe you want to start exercising two days per week, or maybe you want to fulfill your desire to learn the guitar. It’s all up to you— you are in a position to take the opportunities that life has to offer.
Understand the need for interpersonal communication
If you choose to engage in low-tech downtime, one of the first things you’ll realize is that if you want to talk to someone, you’ll actually have to talk to them. Yes, I mean face-to-face communication. Going full force into meaningful, in-person conversations can make an incredible difference. Texting your friends and family is one thing, but spending time with them is priceless. You might be able to find out your son just scored his first goal through a screen, but nothing beats the feeling of experiencing his happiness in person. Face-to-face communication also eliminates any question of tone, body language and facial expressions, so you’ll have a better idea of how your loved ones are feeling in the moment.
While technology is sometimes critical, it’s also an easily accessible distraction. And while you don’t have to go as far as buying a piece of history in another country to enjoy low-tech downtime, I challenge you to take some time this week to unplug from tech and refocus. As a CEO whose passion lies in technology, trust me ─ if I can do it, then so can you.