When it comes to technology, I may not be cutting edge, but I try my very best to adapt to what’s new as quickly as I can. What choice does one have in today’s business world, or social whirl, for that matter? From the first cube-like Macintosh in my home office to my current social-media presence for business, I have always been ready for the next thing. But what’s this I’m hearing about the benefits of an occasional unplugging of one’s digital devices at home?
The trend of establishing digital-free zones at home or work is small but growing. The New York Times recently reported that there is really no such thing as effective multi-tasking, and those who think they are good at it are really just distracted.
“Monotasking,” formerly known as “paying attention” or “not procrastinating,” is the new buzzword, and some business leaders are making a point of turning off digital distractions to get their work done faster. Without the constant pinging of emails or texts, according to this theory, your focus will be much greater and productivity will soar.
As a real estate agent who wants to respond quickly to clients, the digital-free movement is not one I am willing to embrace, and I imagine doctors, plumbers and parents – anyone who needs to be “on call,” would agree. But then again, I realize that my colleagues and I already limit our screen time when need be, even if we are available to answer all our calls and texts. For example, when I am showing houses, all my attention will be focused on my buyer client, but between houses, if I am in a separate car, I may take or receive other calls. Likewise, when my wife calls when I am working on the computer, I stop for a moment and listen to her completely, and I abstain from simultaneously responding to emails.
In other lines of work, turning off the smartphone and avoiding Twitter and Facebook for a designated block of time each day can make sense, especially if the task at hand is to write long reports, build something by hand, or balance the books. To that end, the programs getcoldturkey.com or freedom.to can help monotask by temporarily blocking internet or social media access.
Establishing digital-free zones in the home is a different matter. The proponents are usually not as concerned with productivity as with emotional connection and quality time with family. I have read of some households where all or nearly all electronic stimuli are banned. They don’t have televisions, tablets or wi-fi. For many families, and I know for mine, such a drastic lifestyle change would be far too extreme. Other variations however, seem more doable. In fact, you may be doing them already:
- No devices at the dinner table (or during the family activity of your choice). Many years ago, our family had a “no reading during dinner” rule. Sometimes it was hard to resist temptation, but the end result was that we had more evenings of talking together. Today the rule is updated to “no smartphones,” but I admit that we frequently have the television on. Sure, you may want to socialize online, but studies have found that an overreliance on social media can actually increase feelings of loneliness.
- Unplug during certain set hours. Maybe you have a no-screen-time rule in the mornings to help everyone get out of the door promptly, or maybe you have adopted the advice to turn off devices an hour before bedtime to help sleep better. If this is already working for you, you might add more unplugged time to your schedule (e.g. “Wednesdays from 3 pm to 5 pm”). Adopters of this habit have reported a rekindling of hobbies and interests that had been left to languish once the distraction of the internet entered the home.
- Make a physical space free of digital devices. This can be a comfortable room in your house without screens or chargers. Some households even set up a basket by the door where you can put your phone before you walk in. The space could be set aside for crafts, reading (on paper) or entertaining, and you might notice a different feeling when the online world is not competing for attention.
I am quite happy to watch my favorite movies whenever I choose, and I never want to be away from my phone, but I am more than willing to unplug if it brings me closer to my clients, family and friends. Now that I think about it, I haven’t practiced playing the piano in weeks. Surely unplugging for an evening will give me the time.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.