Step Away From Your Smartphone

Digital devices have transformed our personal and work lives—for better and for worse.

September 1, 2012

When was the last time you hit the “off” switch on your digital devices?

Digital devices have transformed our personal and work lives—for better and for worse, according to a strategy+business article.

And while mobile computing allows managers to better cope with job interruptions, it also has unintended effects, the article point outs—especially if you refuse to separate yourself from your devices.

One strategy to deal with these interruptions is to evaluate the emails you create and receive. How many required a response? How many did you not even read? How many were just “fyi”?

Then, consider these tips:

Reduce the volume. Refrain from sending some messages until you’ve considered and reconsidered whether you really have something to say (and who needs to hear it).

Segment your email. Consider having multiple email addresses: one an assistant monitors and prioritizes or replies to on your behalf, another for select email groups, and a third for certain contacts, friends, and family members.

Some might have a fourth email address for online purchasing.

Use email tools. Although few people take full advantage of these features, most email client programs have built-in mechanisms, such as filters and rules, for regulating and organizing information flow.

Status messages—such as “out of office” notices—can manage others’ expectations. Use them.

Create individual downtime. Managing your email is one thing, but sometimes you need to escape from it. Danah Boyd of Microsoft periodically declares an email
sabbatical and ceases all electronic communication (she recommends doing it for a minimum of two weeks). If that’s too extreme, reserve “offline” hours.

Make a fresh start. Those who feel overwhelmed, including Wired columnist and Harvard Law’s Prof. Lawrence Lessig, sometimes declare “email bankruptcy.” Starting over, you can develop better habits in sending, receiving, and responding to messages.