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How To Disconnect

Simple rules to tweet less and live more.

I Forgot My Phone

Sometimes the technology that can (and should) make our lives easier and better also can make it impossible to maintain the kind of focused attention that’s necessary to work efficiently & effectively. On days when I forget my phone, I’m less anxious and less reactionary. Instead, I’m more focused and more creative.

Freedom From Interruptions

Few spaces remain untouched by email, social media and other digital distractions. If Google’s recent acquisition of smart thermostat developer Nest signals anything, it’s that the competition for the final frontier of distraction-free sacred space — the home — is heating up. But here’s the thing: we can control that technology. A few premises are crucial to reclaiming your time:

  • Constraints breed creativity: Without heaps of digital apps and the world’s information at you fingertips, you’ll be forced to think differently. Strategically limiting technology use will force you to look up. And some of the best ideas are born from life’s random inputs.
  • Manage technology, don’t let technology manage you: I wrote a piece called Fighting Information Overload that is relevant to this point. There is serious time and energy expended by being derailed from the project at hand, and then trying to recalibrate yourself to resume work on it.
  • The end goal is to free up time: The end goal isn’t to help you create a lot of time only to then hit a bong and stare at a wall. The objective is to increase your per-hour output 5 to 10 times. And in doing so, gain increased time and energy that you can allocate however you wish.

Disconnecting is easier said than done. But once you’ve internalized the aforementioned premises, the following rules will fit into place:

The Rules For Disconnecting

  1. Refrain from all emails and social media until after you’ve completed your morning routine.
  2. Optimize your phone for productivity. My home screen only features mission critical apps like SunriseAsanaEvernote and email. Everything else is sorted into folders on other screens.
  3. Turn off social media notifications on your phone. This stops you from checking them every time you get a notification.
  4. For other apps, try things like turning off all push notifications, or even scheduling an “off” period every day for your phone (for example, after 7pm you’re offline). For maximum results, turn off all notifications other than calls and instant messages.
  5. Delete distracting apps. If you catch yourself playing Candy Crush at every free moment, it needs to go. Learn to convert downtime into uptime.
  6. Organize your email. Start by unsubscribing from all promo emails withUnroll.me
  7. Communicate to your boss about times you won’t be available online. Justify this as needing sufficient “runway” time to work on projects that need your undivided attention. Then block off those times on your shared calendar.
  8. Write tweets in advance and schedule them with a service like Buffer,CoTweet or HootSuite.
  9. After work on Friday, don’t check your email for at least 24 hours or more.
  10. When you’re at the gym, either turn off your data or use a strictly music-playing device.
  11. When you’re at home, put your phone in another room for a few hours and leave it there.
  12. Don’t check your phone/emails during family time like dinner. Ever.
  13. Set guidelines for yourself and tell the people around you, “Hey, I am going to try not to be online or use the phone during these hours.” Don’t be afraid to broadcast this announcement to everyone. Tim Ferris shared a great stock explanation for you to use.
  14. At concerts, games or other Instagram-worthy events, take one picture and then put your phone away. Enjoy the show and #latergram that shit.
  15. Create a filter for receiving notifications; prioritize how people can reach you. Sometimes my team uses Facebook to get in touch with me about work. But they know that if they want a faster response, I need to get a text message or a call. I’m currently setting up an auto-responder for email using AwayFind to help with this rule.
  16. Schedule the times you check your email, and limit this to 2 to 3 times per workday. If you want to play hard-mode, try Zero Inbox Thirty.
  17. Take a media fast. You already know the economy isn’t doing well, how many articles do you really need to read about it? Synthesize how you receive information. Pick your topic and head over to QuoraStateand/or Reddit to deconstruct it. No need to sift through a noisy backchannel.
  18. For instant messages, turn off message receipts, so you don’t feel pressured to respond immediately. For calls, however: if someone calls twice consecutively, then it’s probably more important than a regular call.
  19. Let all other calls go to voicemail. If you are in a position where you can call people back at scheduled times, let them know this in your voicemail greeting and stick to that schedule. Use GoogleVoice to convert your voicemails into text messages.
  20. Schedule disconnect times. You may require the use of a computer for your job, but you could probably get away with disconnecting for a scheduled period of time. Use apps like Self-ControlFocusBooster,Time Out or StayFocusd to impose constraints on your distracting activities.

“The potential of our own creativity is rapidly being compromised by the era we live in. I believe that genius in the 21st century will be attributed to people who are able to unplug from the constant state of reactionary workflow, reduce their amount of insecurity work, and allow their minds to solve the great challenges of our era. Brilliance is so rare because it is always obstructed, often by the very stuff that keeps us so busy.” — Scott Belsky, Vice President of Community @ Adobe + Co-Founder @ Behance

Reclaim Your Time

We need to manage technology, rather than let technology manage us. An onslaught of distractions can be debilitating for you if you react to each interruption. Therefore unplug often and create those precious moments of peak productivity. When you find those extra hours each day, you’ll be thankful. Tweet less, live more.

Title Photo Credit: flickr

Written by Hamza Khan

Hamza is an award-winning digital strategist and entrepreneur making a splash in higher education.

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