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Important decisions are best made off-line.

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According to Gayatri Devi, author of A Calm Brain (Plume, 2012), your core brain has the ability to quickly and accurately read and respond to the emotions of others. Your rational frontal lobes may be fooled by polite laughter or phony tears or any false display of emotions; but your core brain is much harder to deceive.

True emotions are picked up by the core brain from the other person’s cluster of cells that Harvard neuroscientist Clifford Saper calls “pattern generators.” If someone’s laughs are genuine, for instance, there is a pattern of telltale signs, including crinkling of muscles around the eyes, certain throat sounds and widening of the mouth, which reveal the laughter is genuine.

That’s why face-to-face interactions are much better than online relationships in order for the core brain to do its job. So if you are negotiating an important deal, meeting with a prospective client or engaging in an online romance, it’s wise to go back to the basics. Good old-fashioned face to face encounters, whether business or personal, should never be completely abandoned.

The prefrontal cortex, with its executive function and its skills in logic and planning has been getting a lot of press in the scientific journals these days. But the core brain, frequently referred to as the reptilian or primitive brain, not only controls the bodily functions that keep you alive and healthy, it also senses danger before your highly developed frontal lobes are even aware of it.

For instance, Mark Bowden in his book, Tame the primitive brain, explains that the primitive or core brain can pick up the heat of a hotplate before you actually touch it. In fact, before the core brain even gets the message, a reflex action is prompted by the spinal cord that causes your hand to jerk away. So thinking part of your brain isn’t the first one to get the message. That’s the core brain insuring your survival.

However, the core brain uses the senses – sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch – and responds accordingly – a knee jerk reaction that sends a message of caution to the thinking part of your brain.

When interacting with other people, information is gathered from such things as body language, tone and voice reflection as well as the words spoken. Corresponding via email or social media or chat rooms is fine when things of little consequence are discussed. But it will never replace personal one-on-one interaction when decisions of importance are to be made.

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Managing your brain, part 12

Email

Always check email in the morning.

My apologies to Julie Morgenstern, for the contradiction to her excellent book’s title, “Never check email in the morning,” but I am now convinced this is not the best strategy.

For years I have been telling people that checking email first thing in the morning would sidetrack them and send them on tangents, answering trivial messages and keeping them from the priorities of the day. And this made sense if you had planned to start on a priority project first thing in the morning. Email is addictive; you do want to check it every few minutes – like shoving one more coin into a casino slot machine hoping this one would result in a reward.

But after learning more about our brain, how it operates, and its impact on our productivity, I’ve changed my mind.

Most people have an irresistible urge to check email before they even get to work – sometimes before they even get dressed in the morning. After all, it’s been 10 hours or more since they last checked it. The world is on different time zones, and they could have won the Irish sweepstakes or had a new book accepted by a foreign publisher. The boss could’ve sent an urgent request, a relative could have died during the night or maybe there is a lucrative job offer awaiting them.

Blame it on this new technology, but the point is, it requires strong willpower and much personal energy to resist the urge to check email and to buckle down to work on that important, but not always delightful, first priority of the day.

Resisting temptation, mustering willpower and ignoring your inbox consumes a lot of energy. But assuming you are able to do it, how productive would you actually be during the rest of the morning? In fact, studies described in Scientific American Mind (May/June, 2011) have shown that people who exert themselves mentally, such as resisting the temptation to check email or whatever, gave up on problems sooner when presented with them immediately afterwards.

We are by nature, curious. This puts us into a mental multitasking mode, thinking about what might be awaiting us in the inbox while trying to concentrate on our priority task. And we now know that things left undone create anxiety and stress, which in themselves are known energy consumers and productivity killers. David Levinson, in his book, “The organized mind,” says the awareness of an email waiting to be answered, for example, can reduce our IQ by 10 points.

The mental energy consumed by exercising willpower is on a par with that required to make decisions or solve problems. Look at the impact this was shown to have had on parole boards. Prisoners who came before the board in the early morning were granted parole 70% of the time while those appearing in the late afternoon were granted parole less than 10% of the time. This wasn’t a case of being more productive and mentally alert in the morning; but simply showed the effect of decision-making fatigue on the part of the board members.

The energy loss and mental fatigue needed to resist that morning peek at email would negatively impact your performance for the rest of the day. On the other hand, very little energy would be consumed by spending a half hour on something you really wanted to do. So why not satisfy your curiosity and give your mood a lift by quickly checking your email before starting your first scheduled priority task?

In 15 minutes you could probably delete, forward and give two-minute responses to most of those email messages, leaving only those that require more work. Leaving them in your inbox rather than moving them to a folder for later action is easier and faster. Simply jot a reminder to yourself in your planner or daily priority pad.

This new strategy is working great for me. I actually allow about 30 minutes to check email each morning and start on my first scheduled 90-minute module of uninterrupted time by 9 AM. And yes, I have plenty of energy left for the rest of the day since I work from a home office with no stressful commute.

By working on a project no longer than 90 minutes before quickly checking email again, you are setting your brain at ease, and able to easily focus on that 90-minute work session. After all, four or five email checks during a full day is not excessive. And if you always allow more time for a priority task than you think it will take, you should have time to spare anyway.

So give your brain a break. It works hard for you day and night and certainly deserves one.

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The Best of Both Worlds

paper planner with electronic

paper planner with electronic

How to use a paper planner in combination with an electronic planner (iPhone, iPad, Android etc.)

I mentioned in a previous article that there are at least 5 ways a paper planner is better than an electronic one. Of course there are many ways digital is better than paper but for now let’s look at one example that makes them even better when used together.

I don’t think we have to go into the hundreds of things that an electronic device is amazing at – searching, sharing, connectivity, checking email, setting repeating events, copying and pasting, alarms and reminders etc., etc. on and on. But we need to be honest about one thing, no matter how committed you are to your gadget you still use paper! And in here lies a problem. Let’s look at a couple scenarios and then look at how paper and gadget can work together.

The Telephone

Let’s say you’re on the phone with a client, the client is speaking a mile a minute about what they need from you, obviously you’re making notes of some kind (unless you are relying on your memory, yikes!!). So the big question here is what are you making the notes on? In a lot of cases your planner is your phone so you’re certainly note making note on it! Even the most ardent techies still jot things down on paper, it’s just easier. The problem is what paper are you jotting the notes onto? A scratch pad? Sticky notes? Scraps of paper? And then what? Then you have to transcribe all these notes a second time into your gadget? What a waste of time! Or do you just make a nice neat pile of these scrappy notes and refer to them throughout the day to see if you’ve forgotten anything? Not only is that a waste of time, it’s a completely disorganized way to work. A better way is to have a planner that offers space to write all the important notes of the conversation directly into it. This way you write it once and it’s organized with all your other important information.

Email

Here’s another scenario. You turn on your device and check your email. The first email you open is a note from a client that says “Please send me a detailed estimate later today and call me at 956-242-6887 after you send it.” So there are two important things you need to remember 1) you need to spend an hour creating an estimate and 2) you need to email it and follow up with a phone call.

So how do you deal with this information? Are you actually going to take the time to exit your email program, launch your calendar app and create a new appointment and copy and paste the email into it? Maybe, but I doubt it. More likely you will a) rely on your memory (yikes again!) b) print the email and add it to the other pile of forgotten work c) Mark the email as unread and deal with it later or d) jot the information on a scrap of paper. The most organized option is to have a planner that offers space for this type of information. You simply jot down “estimate for John, call 956-242-6887” and you’re done! Now that important task is in the “real” world and not out of site out of mind. It’s in your planner for today which is opened or visible on your desk.

You can still keep all your appointments in your device with reminders set easily accessible from anywhere by you or your team, but your must do items and all the important information collected during the day is neat and tidy in your task planner sitting on your desk. Your planner acts as a nag, always in sight always in mind, and you’re always organized.

The takeaway from this article is that you DO use paper so just make sure the paper you are using keeps you organized and not scattered and flustered searching for things whether in the real world or the electronic one. The best paper for the job is a planner with dedicated space to capture this type of information. The old grid-style time planners just don’t cut it anymore. Times have changed and so should your planner. Check out the Daily Priority Pad as a great option for merging high tech with paper.

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In praise of paper planners

taylor-planner-960x437

A merging of high-tech and high-touch

Hand-held electronic computers can boost productivity immensely. But they are computers, not planners. Don’t throw away the kitchen sink just because you buy a dishwasher.

With a hard copy planner you can see your entire week, complete with scheduled tasks and your “things to do” list at a single glance. Flipping of a page brings you a whole new week of plans, appointments and projects. You can see your activities take shape, become completed and remain visibly intact as permanent trophies to your weekly accomplishments. A hardcopy planner also serves as a journal, reflecting not only your past activities, but your uniqueness – taking on your personality, character, and philosophy. It reveals your habits and style as well as your priorities. Color coding, sticky notes, self-adhesive labels and hand written notes can form a permanent footprint of your presence in this world and the impact you made.

Nobody wants to be left behind in this information age where technology is king; but it’s not a case of either using an electronic handheld device or using a paper planner. They both have their place. You can continue to plan and schedule using a paper planner while using your handheld device for contact information, databases, electronic communications, Internet access, and the dozens of other functions used on a regular basis such as GPS, photography, ebooks, email, banking and Google searches.

As the article titled “The Upgrade Game” in the June, 2015 issue of Scientific American claims, “No tech company would create a product just once, designed perfectly for its task, and just sell the version forever with, making only compatibility tweaks as necessary.”

But that’s exactly what we have done with the Taylor Planner – designed over 30 years ago, and only tweaked as necessary based on feedback from its users. It won’t turn on your TV set, provide directions to the nearest shopping mall or search the Internet. It does one thing only, and does it well – helps you to plan your days and weeks so you get the important things done while keeping your life in balance. No upgrades necessary.

According to the Scientific American article mentioned above, since Word was distributed in the 1980s, they have offered upgraded versions 14 times, and if you bought Photoshop in 1990 and bought all the upgrades, you would have paid over $4,000 by now.

I try not to compare a paper planner with a handheld computer because they are not even in the same league. A paper planner plans, it doesn’t compute. But just be aware that the electronic gadgets will continue to add new features whether you need them or even want them. And eventually your older model won’t even be supported by the newer operating systems. But what really bothers me from a time management perspective is that the planner portion of an electronic device is becoming lost among the myriad of other features.

And what bothers me even more is the truth of the statement made by David Pogue, the anchor columnist for Yahoo Tech, and author of the Scientific American article: “Each time (that you upgrade) you lose a few days of productivity as you learn the new layout.”

Balancing high-tech with high- touch can strengthen our brain-based “executive skills, and technology writer Danny O’Brien, who interviewed top achievers, found one thing in common that may account for their increased productivity. They all used some sort low-tech tool, such as a written “To Do” list or a plain paper pad.

The Caveman Principle, as explained by Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College and City University of New York, says that given a choice between high-tech and high-touch, we opt for high-touch every time. For example, would you rather see a celebrity performer sing at a concert or watch a DVD of the same performance? Or how about a live sporting even vs. a re-run on TV?

In addition to the planner I use a hard copy Telephone & E-mail Log in which to make notes when I talk to people on the telephone or review my email. I find more people are using this as we get further into the digital age – probably because it prevents multitasking while on the telephone, improves concentration, shows co-workers you are actually busy and not available to them, and most important, insures that you don’t forget all the things that require follow-up as you switch from call to call and from one email message to another. And it’s like a breath of fresh air to your overloaded brain.

I’m not advocating a return to paperwork; but I do advocate the merging of high-tech and high-touch. There is no need to apologize for using paperwork when it actually serves you better and improves your efficiency. It’s even more important to have an organized mind than an organized working environment – although they do complement each other.

Some predictions about the future have been proven wrong – such as the “paperless office.” There is actually more paper since the advent of computers. People trust concrete evidence more than they do electrons on a computer screen that disappear when you turn off the screen. That’s probably another reason I still prefer to use a paper planner.

It doesn’t have to be a planner. Some people are being so rapidly bombarded by instant tasks, requests and assignments that they find it literally impossible to schedule much of anything in a planner. For those people we have designed a Priority Planner Pad – a one-page system that accommodates the hectic lifestyle of someone constantly on the move. You can view them both at our website, taylorintime.com.

 

 

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5 Reasons a hardcopy paper day planner is better than an electronic one (iPad, iPhone, android, tablet, etc.)

paper-planner-vs-ipad

paper-planner-vs-ipad

Is an electronic planner as good as a paper planner?

In the age of the gadget there’s really no limit to what your device can do. And though it can do a lot there’s a lot it doesn’t do well. And that brings us to the title of this article – is your device a good planning tool? Here are 5 reasons how a paper planner is better than your device.

  1. Speed

  2. Bet you weren’t expecting that one!
    But think about it, I can flip my planner open to today’s date before you even get your device out of its case. Not to mention you have to turn it on, enter a password, find the app, launch it etc. And before you’ve done all this I have already scheduled my appointment and closed my planner. A paper planner is designed to do one thing, plan. And it does it very well! Which brings us to the next point…

  3. The best tool for the job

  4. You can use the handle of a screwdriver to bang in a nail, but why would you?
    When you open your planner it’s for one purpose only, to plan. You are either looking at the week and making mental assessments of what’s coming up, what’s important, what’s left to do or you are scheduling upcoming events and tasks. The short story, you’re planning. When you turn on your device you are bombarded with distractions, email notifications, Facebook alerts and a hundred other possible ways to get lost in the digital abyss. One false move and you are lost for an hour falling further and further down the rabbit hole! If you want to bang in a nail, use a hammer!

  5. Field of Vision

  6. Seeing a plan in full gives you a clear idea of how you will get from A to B.
    Have you ever Googled an address and clicked on the map only to be shown the exact location as an intersection on a map?! You then spend the next few seconds zooming out and out and out… ah that’s where it is! When you look at a planner on a device (and I don’t care if it’s a 6.6 x 9.4 inch iPad screen) you never seem to get the whole picture. You’re always swiping, pinching and scrolling to try and get the best view. Not so with a paper planner. You open it, and you have a complete view of your week complete with your tasks, priorities and schedule. A good paper planner will open up to the equivalent of a 15” computer monitor!

  7. Memory

  8. A good memory is more effective than a bad one!
    It’s well accepted and backed by research that writing things down helps commit them to memory. And being able to mentally envision your schedule and tasks helps keep them in mind. You may argue that typing them into a device achieves the same thing; but in fact this is not true. Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA studied college students in classrooms where some used laptops and others traditional notebooks for taking class notes, and guess what they discovered? Yep, the note-takers scored higher on the test, understood and recalled more.

  9. Custom fit

  10. Planning is 90% personality
    Although every planner comes off the printing press identical the similarities stop when it reaches your hand. The way you use sticky notes and color coding, the highlighting and personal notes all reflect you and you as an individual. Your planner becomes a creative footprint of who you are as a person and how you plan to get where you’re going – your way. And the best planning system is one that you adapt yourself to work for you. A paper planner gives you the flexibility to mold it into your own personal planning system without the limitations of some app programmed by computer experts rather than designed by planning professionals.

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Don’t be a computer clutter bug

Cluttered computer

Packrats and computers don’t mix

The electronic packrat is here. It had to happen eventually. It’s so tempting to keep everything that you have ever written, received or downloaded because they consume no visible space, can be stored instantly and are hidden from the prying eyes of others. Computers are becoming so cluttered that locating a specific file is like trying to find a postage stamp among a truckload of trivia.

Just because you have an apparently unlimited amount of storage space doesn’t mean you should keep everything. Filing too much has its consequences, the greatest of which is lost time. The more you file, the longer it takes to retrieve something. Time is wasted opening the wrong folders and documents, misfiling, naming and renaming and scrolling through hundreds of titles.

Are you an electronic packrat? Here are a few indicators:

  • Opening folders within folders on your computer reminds you of a bottomless pit.
  • It takes over 5 seconds just to read the titles of all the folders that you have created on your desktop.
  • You spend 5 minutes or more each day searching for documents that you recently created.
  • When filing, your word processing program keeps telling you that there’s already a document by the same name.
  • The list of documents in one folder fills the entire depth of the window.
  • The dates that many documents were created coincide with the year you bought the computer.
  • You can’t remember having written many of the documents that you open.
  • You sometimes open folders to find they are empty or open documents that are blank.
  • You have identical documents with different headings.
  • There are documents that you haven’t opened since you first filed them.

Don’t keep a copy of every e-mail you send or receive. Purge your electronic filing cabinets on a regular basis. Check the dates and delete routine correspondence that is over a year old if you haven’t needed to refer to it in the meantime.

A better idea might be to use the self-destruct method. That’s where you add a delete date to the heading at the time you file it. The best time to make a decision as to how long you will keep something is at the time you create it or receive it. Every 6 months or so you could delete everything whose delete date has expired without even opening it. If you decide to keep something forever, leave off the date.

A packrat is someone who keeps things that are no longer used. If you have never had to access a file in over a year, you are probably safe in deleting it. If in doubt, throw it out. Or more accurately, to keep it neat, delete. Don’t let your computer be a dumping ground for useless, redundant or outdated information.

 

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Work: not a place to go to, but a state of mind

work-state-of-mind

work-state-of-mind

Are we witnessing the end of personal time?

We have become a mobile society with fewer people working in 9 to 5 offices, and many people working at home, on the road or sharing a desk with others. One of my past clients consisted of case managers who seldom visited a centralized office. They were all equipped with laptops and did their administrative work onsite at their client’s place, in their cars or at home.

Even those who work in offices have blurred starting and ending times. Nearly a third of all employees in the U.S. work on a flexible schedule and have at least some say in when their work begins and ends according to the book, The Secret Pulse of Time, by Stefan Klein. The Families and Work Institute reported that over 40% of workers are able to select their start and quit times within a range of core operating hours set by employers. And according to the Department of Labor, nearly 29 million employees start their workday between 4:30 a.m. and 7:29 a.m.

A documentary on TV indicated that women created the demand for workplace flexibility, but men have now joined them full force. Some companies are changing the way they do business both to accommodate demands for a satisfying work/life balance, and to handle the shrinking talent pool as baby boomers retire. The challenge has been to abolish the time clock, yet increase productivity. Other factors have influenced the trend towards a more flexible workweek, including the increase in morning traffic, customer demands, working parents, family priorities and of course the electronic wireless communication devices, laptops and other portable office equipment.

The number of people who work at home is increasing. According to one website, an estimated 23.5 million employed Americans worked from home during business hours at least one day per month. Work is no longer a place where you go to get things done. It could be your kitchen, a library, your car or even a coffee shop. Coffee shops are opening earlier. Many are equipped with wireless Internet. Cars are more conducive to eating on the run with specialty stores sell modular work stations that fit in the passenger seat.

There are some advantages of the increase in work flexibility for both employees and employers. For someone with child care or elder care needs, for instance, it can be helpful. Employers get more of the day and week covered to meet client demands.

And there are some advantages to working at home, in the car or at a coffee shop. In many cases there is less clutter, and no memorabilia such as trophies or family photographs to distract you. There are usually fewer interruptions, no water cooler gossip or morning sports updates. No bottlenecks at working stations, copiers or in the boardroom.

But with today’s technology, you are connected 24 hours a day, tethered to a smartphone or other electronic device, and able to send and receive text messages as you move from one location to the other. And for many people, their handheld devices are no farther away than the bedside table as they sleep at night.

We don’t know how digital technologies are affecting our brains; but we do know that they can become addictive, interfere with our personal relationships, and in some cases affect our health and well-being. Susan Greenfield, in her 2015 book, Mind Change: How digital technologies are leaving their mark on our brains, indicates that technologies have their price.

It would be wise to keep up to date on the possible harm, as well of the benefits of this digital age of speed – and to wade carefully into the waters of technology without becoming fully immersed.

 

 

 

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The single most effective strategy for managing email

Email management strategies

Email management strategies

Is it the end of personal time?

The single most effective strategy for handling email is to control it and not allow it to control you. Personal life coach Valorie Burton, author of How Did I Get So Busy (Broadway Books, 2007) relates the story of a woman who sleeps with her BlackBerry. Her reason? If she gets an idea in the middle of the night, she can email it before she forgets.

That’s not such an uncommon story. Stefan Klein, in his book The Secret Pulse of Time (Marlowe & Company, 2007) talks about the constant stream of emails that prevent us from finishing our projects. He cites an AOL study that indicated people are addicted to email. Three quarters of all Americans spend more than an hour a day on it. 41% of those questioned retrieve their email first thing in the morning even before brushing their teeth – and almost as many admit to getting out of bed at night to check their email. 4% even read their email on their laptops while seated on the toilet!

One of my own clients told me that he was proud of the fact that he could reach any of his managers at any time – even if it were midnight Sunday – because the company had issued BlackBerrys to all the managers.

Valorie Burton referred to a Wall Street Journal article titles “BlackBerry Orphans” that discussed how these gadgets intrude on families and how children are feeling neglected.

Email is one of the reasons that work is no longer a place but a state of mind. It’s also one of the culprits in an out-of-balance life. And it contributes to the number one time problem as we will soon see as well.

It’s not email itself, but our lack of control. People check it from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night. That is, if they don’t sleep with it! And it frequently takes them on tangents, checking recommended websites, reading attachments, responding to queries and keeping them from working on their priority projects. Some people even have bells and whistles that tell them another email has arrived so they won’t miss another distraction.

If you want to gain control, set up a time and a procedure for handling email. Don’t allow it to control your day. You might check email twice per day, for instance – more frequently if your company’s success depends on a quick response to emails. Checking your email every ten minutes or so is both costly and time consuming.

Timothy Ferriss, author of the book, The 4-Hour Workweek, published in 2007 by Crown Publishing, checks his email no more than once per week. He insists that any lost orders or other problems are overshadowed by his gain in efficiency. Personally, I wouldn’t go to this extreme. But twice per day does not seem unreasonable.

It’s not generally a good idea to check email first thing in the morning. You could easily get distracted from your plan. Make sure you get your top priority done first. We recommend you schedule one or more priority tasks each morning and not check your email until about 11:30. You could check it again about 3:30 in the afternoon. You might want to turn off the automatic send/receive option so that email doesn’t pop up in your inbox the moment you sign on. Email programs seem to be designed to control us rather than the other way around.

I encourage everyone to at least give it a try. Check your email twice per day for at least a couple of days and then assess the impact on your business. I’m sure most people have experienced a computer crash or an Internet access problem or a vacation when accessing email was impossible, and yet have survived the experience with no earth-shattering problems.

When you do check your email, make sure that you have enough time to dispense with all the email messages in your inbox. You might want to allow a half hour for instance every time you check your email. Either delete it, forward it to someone else for reply, file it, answer it, move it to an action file or To Do list, or (if it warrants it) schedule time in your planner to take the necessary action before replying. It’s a similar process you would use with paper. Handle it only once where possible and never leave it in the inbox.

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Where are you focusing your attention?

Multitasking

Multitasking

Can technology actually waste time?

Regardless of what people may say about their priorities and what they value most, it is where they focus their attention that reveals whether they are really ‘walking their talk.’

Whether inadvertently or not, the Internet and social media such as Twitter and Facebook may be consuming their lives, where are you focusing your attention? Their so-called priorities, goals and dreams are being put on hold to a time in the future that may never materialize.

As Marshall McLuhan warned us in the 1960s, the medium is the message. We may have started sending tweets or posting to Facebook or writing a blog with an end result in mind – whether it were to promote a seminar, sell product, or whatever. But we soon became captivated by the medium, and feel compelled to continue daily or weekly tweets or posts for the sake of tweeting and posting – with no particular objective in mind.

We may have originally used technology to save time; but over the years it has become a time consumer – with insufficient value from much of it to warrant such an expensive input of time and energy.

Time is life – and a life well lived does not necessarily include a large portion of it being dedicated to surfing the net, accessing YouTube videos, posting tweets and providing Facebook friends with play-by-play updates of our every move.

Social media, like TV or anything else, is fine in moderation. So spending an hour a day online is probably not excessive – especially when it includes useful information that will be put to good use. And TV is great for news and entertainment.

But five hours a day watching TV is a little much, and even 40 minutes a day of social media may be excessive – especially since it reduces the time and energy available for real, live, human interaction.

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Are smartphones interfering with your relationships?

images (2)According to an article in the March/April, 2015 issue of Psychology Today, smartphones are interfering with relationships. When one person in the relationship is frequently checking email or text messages it is sending a signal that what he or she is doing on their cell phone is more important than interacting with the other person.

Being shunned, ignored or rejected is painful, and functional MRIs actually reveal that both physical pain and rebuff or rejection share the same pathways in the brain. One study from Brigham Young University found that of 143 women in relationships, the majority reported that cell phones, computers, and other devices were significantly interrupting their relationships and family lives. It is even believed that these seemingly minor hurts through inattention or rejection are cumulative. Over time, they can fester to the point of compromising physical and mental health.

A Wall Street Journal article titled BlackBerry Orphans discussed how these gadgets were intruding on families and how children were feeling neglected. Psychologists reported that electronic devices were becoming a topic of conversation in family therapy sessions. When I was young, wives used to complain about husbands reading the paper at the kitchen table during meal time. Now it seems that Smartphones have replaced the newspaper. And women seem to multitask as much as men.

A Canadian Health report (mentioned in the book, Sleep to be Sexy, Smart & Slim by Ellen Michaud with Julie Bain) claims that more than a half of all employees take work home, 69% check their email from home, 59% check voice mail after hours, 30% get work-related faxes, and 29% keep their cell phones on day and night. As a result, 46% feel that this work-related intrusion is a stressor and 44% report negative spillover onto their families. And the families are supposed to be the most effective buffer to workplace stress. Work is no longer a place, but a state of mind. And with smartphones and other PDAs, it’s easier to be a workaholic these days.

If both parties in the relationship are guilty of using their smart phones while together – such as in restaurants, at family gatherings or in the bedroom – communications will suffer, and communications is usually considered essential to a happy relationship.

Relationships is a major topic discussed in our holistic time management seminars as well, since it impacts time, health and well-being. Couples owe it to themselves to at least examine whether technology is creating interference in their personal relationships and take action if necessary.
Such actions could include setting some boundaries and guidelines that are acceptable to both parties. We all need time for technology – both for business and personal reasons – but it should not overlap with time being spent together. Perhaps there could be specific times when both partners work independently for an hour or so. There could be a policy of no cell phones during specific activities such as mealtimes, dates, and at bedtime. You could decide to turn off cell phones and laptops at a specific time in the evening or have technology-free hours during the day.

The important thing is to assess the impact, if any, that cell phones and other devices are having on your relationships, health and use of time, and take any necessary action. Any actions taken should be agreed upon by both parties, and not set arbitrarily.