Right now, the world feels a bit like a huge sociological experiment.
Just 10 years ago, none of us was connected to the internet 24/7. But since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, the world has experienced a rapid shift—one in which it’s normal to be tethered to our devices.
Here are some stats to explain my point: 81 percent of people are attached to their phones all day; nearly two-thirds of us check our phones within five minutes of waking up; and the average American checks his or her phone 46 times per day.
It extends to the workplace, too: 98 percent of executives use their phone at night and on the weekends, and 57 percent of people look at work messages during family outings with their kids.
I love technology because my work is made possible by it. I have an online business and a remote team, and social media has given me the opportunity to connect with people across the globe.
But just as much as technology is an important part of my day, so is unplugging.
In the future, I think we’re going to look back at how we use technology and compare it to smoking. Our technology is addictive because of the way it’s designed. Tech companies do a ton of social good. But they also deliberately seek to hijack your attention and hold it for as long as possible.
When designing their products, tech and social media companies leverage the most cutting-edge research on behavior change, persuasion, biochemistry, neuroscience, conditioning and habit formation.
And the research is clear: Being connected all of the time is hurting our health. Research shows that checking your work email off-hours leads to emotional exhaustion, burnout, stress and psychological, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems.
But there’s an easy cure. Simply spend more time away from your screens. A Harvard University study followed a team at Boston Consulting Group who could not check work email on evenings or weekends. The results? Lower stress levels, more excitement about work, a jump in job satisfaction and no loss in productivity.
With notifications constantly popping up, apps that scroll endlessly, and emails begging to be read, taking control of how you use technology can feel almost impossible. But you can do it one step at a time.
Here are my tips for how to detach better.
1. Become aware.
2. 30 before 7:30 a.m.
Sleep with your phone out of your bedroom. When you wake up in the morning, don’t touch it. Grab a notebook or piece of paper, and plan your priorities for the day. Once you finish your 30 minutes of planning, you can look at your phone.
3. Progress, not productivity.
Responding to emails makes you feel productive but never moves the needle on what matters. Work on your top priority first thing in the morning. Do it right away and don’t check your email until you finish.
4. Phones off the table.
Unplug when you’re around other people. If someone’s phone comes out, politely ask him or her to put it out of sight. Ban phones from the dinner table or family gatherings. Research shows having a phone on the table distracts people—even if it’s not theirs.
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.