5 Tips for More Intentional Tech Use at Work

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Over the past several years, technology has come to dominate daily life for all kinds of workers. While the right applications and platforms can help increase productivity, improper tech usage can do significantly more harm than good.

Society is already beginning to see some of the negative aspects of tech overflow, and some are taking action. The next generation is already being raised to be more tech-conscious, with the introduction of scaled-back kid phones and tech-free childhoods. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late for their parents.

The first step to developing a healthy relationship with your workplace tech is by being intentional with it. If you’re not careful, technology will creep into every corner of your life.

Here are a few ways to prevent that:

1. Disconnect at the end of the day.

Before anything else, you need to draw a firm line between your professional day and your personal evening. A 2018 study found that working outside regular business hours seriously hindered workers’ ability to sleep, recover, and maintain the necessary levels of energy to work the next day. For your own health, disconnecting is a must.

Set clear, firm guidelines for yourself on when you’re allowed to work and when you aren’t. Once the workday is over, take a break from all electronics entirely for a while. This time can give you the space you need to decompress and shift into a less professional mindset. Preventing work from bleeding into your free time allows you to appreciate both more.

2. Take mini-breaks.

When you’re on the job, don’t get sucked into endless tech usage. Regular breaks from technology on the job ensure you’re more purposeful when you do use tech — actively completing tasks instead of mindlessly browsing.

One of the best ways of doing this is with a modified version of the Pomodoro technique. The technique involves 25 minutes of work, followed by a five-minute break. Following this schedule has been shown to boost productivity, but reworking it for tech can have benefits as well. Take five minutes out of every half-hour to put down all devices entirely. When you pick them back up, you’ll notice the difference.

3. Use website blockers.

Nearly 60 percent of employees admit to spending an hour or more surfing the web at work every day. Most office workers know the real number is likely much higher. If other disconnecting techniques aren’t working for you, it’s probably time to shut down your access to time-wasting sites entirely. A number of great apps block certain sites; doing so can keep you from getting sucked down a rabbit hole while working.

4. Establish “techless” times.

Even the most tech-focused workers have duties and tasks they can do without their devices. Rather than constantly switch between your laptop and notepad, develop a schedule to separate one from the other.

Businesses are increasingly opting to host off-the-grid hours. Employees take advantage of their liberation from devices to collaborate, talk, and problem solve. Having a tech-free hour early or in the middle of the day can give workers the opportunity to take a step back and think outside of the box. Then, they can get back to their devices and put their ideas into practice.

5. Use one device at a time.

At work, you’re rarely just on your desktop. You might also be on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, smartwatch, or any number of other devices. While it’s tempting to take full advantage of the connectivity at your fingertips, doing so is almost never to your benefit.

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Context switching — frequently changing the platforms you work on — can slash your productivity by up to 80 percent and cut your mental state in the process. One of the best ways to stamp out device switching is by scheduling which devices you use when. Keeping tools siloed off ensures you don’t lose your mind juggling all at the same time.

Intentional tech use is the first step toward maximizing your productivity and well-being on the job. By assessing exactly what your regular tech usage looks like, you can develop an understanding of what’s wrong — and what you can do to make it right.

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Renee Johnson is a freelance writer who covers the business and tech worlds. With experience writing for a variety of tech-based publications and a background in business, management, and finance, Johnson discusses new technologies and their impact.