Trevor D. Miller

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Finding a healthy balance with technology and priorities

January 01, 2017

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

My priorities in life are:

  1. God
  2. Marriage
  3. Children
  4. Health
  5. Work
  6. Chores
  7. Others

I do enjoy watching TV, playing video games, texting, and such. But I strive to be intentional about my time and block out most of my calendar for the things that matter most. For example, if I haven’t spent time reading my scriptures, talking with my wife, playing with my children, and taking time to recharge my mental health, then I delegate work responsibilities, postpone chores that can wait, and decline other invitations.

Daily unplugged time

I have scheduled “Do Not Disturb” mode on each of my devices to give me uninterrupted time for my priorities.

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 notifications. No social media apps. No other stuff that I can live without being in my pocket. This helps me to not have as many distractions that can pull me away from my priorities.

Grouping all the “checking”

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” that I do each morning. For me, this means:

  • Organizing my upcoming calendar items
  • Sharing new photos/videos
  • Monitoring my health data
  • Returning phone calls
  • Responding to text messages
  • Checking emails
  • Reviewing finances

Doing it this way helps me to stay organized. Then I don’t have to stress about these things 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 newsletters, marketing/ads, social media alerts, 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 strive not to let my amount of notifications grow because I feel they drain my energy and peace. There are tools that can help with this. For example, Screen Time on Apple devices.

Avoiding excessive social media

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.

Keeping work and personal devices separate

I like to keep my work and personal devices completely separate. For example, I don’t install any work apps on my personal phone. This helps 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 (if it is an emergency, my co-workers have my phone number to call).

Avoiding unwholesome media

I consider unwholesome media things that are primarily pornographic, violent, dark, etc. I avoid these types of media for both scientific and spiritual reasons. I believe unwholesome media alters 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.

Recommendations

“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 also love technology and think we should take advantage of the great things that it offers! But I do believe it is important to find a healthy balance with technology that can help us feel more peace and joy in our lives.