Founder of Gabb Wireless Inc., the first nationwide cellular network for kids.
When running a tech business, you live and breathe it every minute of every day. If you are not thinking about the technology you are building, you are testing it, studying other technology and using technology to move your company forward. These types of tech use are intentional and purposeful.
In contrast, when we find ourselves scrolling through social media, playing endless games and picking up mobile devices every few seconds, there is nothing intentional about it. Balance is lost.
An Adult-Sized Problem
While I started my company with the intent of addressing kids’ tech imbalance, the reality is many adults find themselves addicted. In fact, adults spend on average 5.4 hours a day on their phones. As a technology leader, it’s also my goal to help adults better balance their technology use.
With my team at my own company, I advocate for more intentional use of technology. It may seem counterintuitive at a tech company to be urging employees to spend less time on tech, but I believe that a healthy balance is key for employee productivity and happiness.
Here are some ways I encourage balance:
So much of the imbalance with technology is the lack of mindful thinking before taking action to pick up that smartphone or tablet or turn on that streaming device. Given the stress of the day, it’s understandable that there’s an urge to escape the reality of work challenges or life events. However, doing so most often leads to more hours spent on tech consumption than anything else.
The average American spends approximately 3.5 hours surfing the web on their phones each day. Some of that may be work-related or necessary. Once you start surfing, it can be easy to fall into an internet rabbit hole.
Instead, before picking up any device, stop and ask what you can achieve by using tech at that moment. If you don’t have an answer, then it’s time to put it aside and determine what else you could do to create a sense of purpose. It may help to write down the things you could be doing or had been meaning to complete so you see where your real purpose lies and what you can achieve instead of the next level in League of Legends.
Calculate Tech Time
Because much of our tech activity is mindless, most of us don’t add up how much time we spend on our devices. Once we actually account for tech time, it may serve as a wake-up call about why we feel there is not enough time in the day.
If you use an iOS device, Apple already provides you with a screen time app that calculates your time each week and breaks it down by what you did with that screen time. This includes social media, gaming, web browsing and more. If you don’t have this app, you can find other time tracker tools that offer a similar analysis.
Think of these in terms of how a budget works for spending. Once you see where it all goes, it’s difficult to deny or excuse your behavior. In the process, you may find that you hold yourself more accountable. You can make it a competition with yourself to see where you are able to cut back on certain types of screen time and achieve better results.
With children, it can be more challenging to help them understand the concept of priorities. Adults — especially parents — should already understand how to prioritize, but many still find it difficult.
Take the time to prioritize your time. Doing so requires talking through or writing down what is really important to you. It may be your spouse, family or circle of friends. Don’t forget to also consider prioritizing yourself — something we don’t seem to do as often as we should.
Once you have a list of what’s really important, then you need to consider how you will allocate more time to those priorities by taking back time from your time budget that was previously allotted to technology. This process will again help you use tech intentionally and provide balance.
Be The Model
If you have kids and are already conscious of their tech imbalance, then you will have to examine whether you are a role model for balanced tech use. After all, your children look to you for how they should think and act. You may discover that your tech use matches theirs, which means they are less likely to change when they see you spending just as much time or more on tech devices.
How do you do that? Make sure that they see you looking at them when they are talking to you. Don’t bring your device to the table. Show them how you are spending time doing more meaningful activities, such as going for a walk, reading a book or working on a hobby. When they see you prioritizing them over your smartphone, they may be more likely to do the same.
Sign A Tech Time Contract
The tech time contract can list time frames and guidelines for tech usage. I suggest my employees think through this for themselves and for their families as well. Simply agreeing to how and when everyone will use technology can help the whole family achieve an effective balance.
The tech time contract can require that everyone put their devices in a basket to be kept out of sight (and away from temptation) until a designated time the next morning. It can set other parameters like how much tech time is available each evening or weekend.
One Step At A Time
Balance doesn’t happen overnight. Many of us rely on tech for so much in our lives already. I’m not saying you have to cut it off immediately, but I suggest making small changes that, over time, will lead to a positive new habit.
Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?