TRY A TECH TIME-OUT Ways to have a health­ier re­la­tion­ship with your de­vices

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has be­come a drain on our well-be­ing, yet we still find it hard to walk away. That’s partly be­cause Face­book, In­sta­gram and Twit­ter are ad­dic­tive by design.

One sim­ple way around this prob­lem is a tem­po­rary hia­tus. Psy­cho­log­i­cally, it’s eas­ier to con­tem­plate giv­ing some­thing up for a few weeks than do­ing it for­ever, even if you’re likely to ar­rive at the end of that break feel­ing like quit­ting for good would be sur­pris­ingly pain­less.

By this time last year, I had al­most en­tirely stopped us­ing Face­book. A few weeks ago, the re­ports about data min­ing and pri­vacy breaches fi­nally per­suaded me to de­ac­ti­vate my ac­count. The only neg­a­tive con­se­quence I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced is find­ing my­self spend­ing more of my new­found free time on Twit­ter. So, in Jan­uary, I’m tak­ing the whole month off from Twit­ter and In­sta­gram as well.

Turn off no­ti­fi­ca­tions

Shut­ting off alerts from all your apps is the sim­plest and most re­gret-free ways to re­store a large mea­sure of your dig­i­tal san­ity. Even call­ing them no­ti­fi­ca­tions is buy­ing into the fic­tion that they ex­ist for your con­ve­nience rather than the app mak­ers’.

Call them what they are: en­gage­ment prompts and growth-hack­ing tricks.

So­cial me­dia apps are plenty ad­dic­tive enough with­out dings, buzzes and badges de­mand­ing your at­ten­tion ev­ery few min­utes. If you turn off Face­book no­ti­fi­ca­tions and then for­get to log into Face­book for a few days, that’s a pretty good sign you’re not get­ting much util­ity out of Face­book.

You might feel that you need to know about new emails or Slack mes­sages as soon as they come in, but un­less you’re await­ing a re­cently har­vested or­gan for trans­plant, you’re bet­ter off check­ing your var­i­ous in­boxes on a sched­ule that al­lows for un­in­ter­rupted spans of fo­cused work.

Stop wear­ing your wear­ables all the time

Wear­able fit­ness track­ers are not un­like so­cial me­dia: When you first start us­ing one, it’s easy to grasp the ben­e­fits, from more phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to bet­ter sleep. The prob­lem is when they be­come a daily habit.

If you’re go­ing to be giv­ing a com­pany vast amounts of data about your per­sonal be­hav­iors, you should be ac­cru­ing pro­por­tion­ately large ben­e­fits over time, and that’s sim­ply not the case with most wear­ables that ex­ist now.

Save the wear­ables for when you have a spe­cific pur­pose for them, such as los­ing weight or train­ing for a race.

Es­tab­lish no-phone zones

The qual­ity that makes smart­phones so in­dis­pens­able is also what makes them so ne­far­i­ous: They do ev­ery­thing. Cook­ing, ex­er­cis­ing, watch­ing TV — they can help with al­most any­thing.

But they also are time wasters and a hin­drance to re­la­tion­ships and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

It’s great that we can find out how much screen time we’re log­ging each week by check­ing our smart­phones, but a sim­pler and more ef­fec­tive rem­edy is to pick a few places where you of­ten find your­self fall­ing into a scroll hole and des­ig­nate them smart­phone­free zones.

If you’re hav­ing lunch or din­ner with friends or your fam­ily, keep the phone out of sight. Don’t bring it into the bed­room when it’s time to sleep. At work, put your smart­phone in a drawer and don’t look at it when you’re try­ing to fo­cus on a task.

Chances are your mood will im­prove, your pro­duc­tiv­ity will soar and your re­la­tion­ships will be­come more mean­ing­ful.

Jeff Ber­covici is the San Fran­cisco bu­reau chief of Inc.


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