Finding a healthy balance with technology

What I do to stay sane with all the device noise.

General

Technology is a double-edged sword

We have so many fantastic tech tools. They can help us learn, find important information, reach out to others, capture memories, plan, reach goals, try new things...the list is endless.

But because of the endless possibilities and immediate availability of all our tech tools, they can also suffocate us.

"I think most of us intuitively understand how important the fundamentals are. It is just that we sometimes get distracted by so many things that seem more enticing. Printed material, wide-ranging media sources, electronic tools and gadgets—all helpful if used properly—can become hurtful diversions or heartless chambers of isolation." - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

So many notifications. So much noise. I often become distracted from the things that matter most.

What helps me

I have some things I do that help me to stay grounded with technology that I'll be describing below. This is what works for me. It may or may not work for you. But either way, I encourage us all to find ways to keep our lives balanced in the way we use technology.

Focusing on what's most important

For me, what is most important is God, family, and friends. I do enjoy playing online games with my friends, texting, and such. But I try to make sure the majority of my interactions are in person. There is a richness of connection when you are with someone and focused on them that you can't get digitally.

What I do to help me stay focused is to keep all the stuff that is important to me aggregated in a task list.

Daily unplugged time

I have scheduled "Do Not Disturb" mode on each of my devices for a couple hours each night to give me uninterrupted time with loved ones. I try to stay focused on those I'm with instead of tinkering with my devices.

Reducing my phone to only the essentials

I have very little installed on my phone; only what I consider the essentials for me. I turn off all non-essential notifications. No email. No social media. No other stuff that I can live without being in my pocket. This helps me to not have notifications all day long.

Grouping all the "checking" and updates to once a day

But, you still have to live in this modern world. I still have to check on things. Emails, finances, and all that. The way I deal with this is by having a daily "update" script that I run each morning. This update script contains:

  • Organizing my task list for the day
  • Reviewing my upcoming calendar items
  • Responding to text messages
  • Checking emails
  • Organizing new photos/videos
  • Adding brief journal entries
  • Reviewing my finances
  • [if it's a Monday], checking social media

This is unconventional, but doing it this way helps me get done what I need to. Then I don't have to stress about it for the rest of the day so I can focus on the things that matter most to me.

Unsubscribing from the noise

I aggressively unsubscribe from things that aren't important to me. Email subscriptions, social media "follow"ing, feeds, you name it. If it gets noisy, I'm outta there. I strive for "inbox zero" each day. If I can't get to inbox zero each day, then I unsubscribe more. I can't handle the notifications building up and draining my energy and peace.

Avoiding excessive social media

I try to only check social media once a week. Social media can be a valuable tool to stay in touch with others. But it can also be a pit of comparisons and depression. There's also the loud voices of advertisements and marketing begging for our attention. I think generally it is better to just call or visit people in person, where possible. I try to keep my "friend" and "following" counts low to reduce the noise.

Keeping work and personal devices separate

I like to keep my work and personal devices completely separate. For example, I don't bring my work laptop home from my work. I don't install any work apps on my personal phone. These sorts of things help me stay focused on what is most important to me when I'm off the clock. Work stuff can wait until I'm back on the clock.

Avoiding unwholesome media

I avoid pornography and other unwholesome media for both scientific and spiritual reasons. I believe things like pornography alter your brain and spirit in damaging ways. I try to do all I can to keep it out of my home and life.

I wrote an article that discusses this more in detail.

Conclusion

"Today we are barraged by multitudes of voices telling us how to live, how to gratify our passions, how to have it all. At our fingertips we have software, databases, television channels, interactive computer modems, satellite receivers, and communications networks that suffocate us with information. There are fewer places of refuge and serenity." - James E. Faust

I'm not perfect at this stuff. I'm also not suggesting not using technology. But I think there is a healthy balance to be found that can help us feel more peace and joy in our lives.