Me, You, and the Handheld

These days, most of us use handheld technology in all aspects of our daily lives, blurring the boundaries between work and home. Has this made you feel more overworked and less energized? If so, you need to learn how to break free from technology, turn it off regularly, stop letting it control you, and unplug in ways that boost your energy. Let’s chat about your electronic habits, and about how to regain control.

1. Plan your screen time and stick to it. It’s unnatural to focus on a computer or TV screen for hours on end instead of interacting with people. Yet this is precisely what most people do — and the subsequent feelings of social isolation and depression can be quite damaging to your energy level.

2. Put your life first. Don’t let technology eat up your free time; technology exists to simplify your life, not to complicate it. It’s up to you to keep it in check. A good start is to turn off all electronics an hour before bedtime.

3. Keep your electronic in-box empty. Slash through the electronic detritus to maximize your efficiency, and therefore your energy level. If you let your voicemail and email inboxes get overcrowded, important communications might fell through the cracks, straining a friend’s or client’s trust in you.

4. Get your computer organized. Too much computer clutter can drain your energy just by forcing you to hunt for things that should be easy to find. Delete old files, reorganize folders, and give files names that make their contents obvious at a glance.

5. Turn off your technology when you’re on personal time. You can’t recharge your personal energies if you’re always working. Once the workday is over, make yourself electronically scarce.

6. Avoid Obsessive Compulsive Technology Disorder. You don’t need to check your email constantly. Doing so is forces your brain to start/stop/start/stop constantly, which requires a huge amount of mental energy. Instead, turn off the technological distractions so you can get work done.

7. Just say no to instant messaging.  Instant messaging is a great way to stay in contact, but too much of it steals time and energy you need for other work. Don’t be afraid to turn on the “DO NOT DISTURB” feature when you want to focus on a task that requires your complete concentration.

8. Match the message to the medium. Use the right means of communication for a particular message. Sometimes email is the most efficient way to communicate with a particular person; sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone.

Electronic devices are supposed to make your life easier, not more stressful. If they’ve begun to dominate your life — including your time off — step back and decide whether all that stress is worth the reward. It may be time to shed some of that technology, or at least to put it back in its place.

© 2008 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time™. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations.  Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces.  She is the bestselling author of three works published by Broadway Books: The Exhaustion Cure (2008), Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004).  Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and 3M.  To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401.  Visit to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.