Most of us can get pulled into Facebook or spend hours watching TV and later feel like it was a total waste of time. How are we supposed to deal with all the information coming at us?

Information! Information! Information! 

Information Technology is everywhere.  We're faced with emails, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TED Talks, text messages, personal Facebook messages, TV on demand, instant access to movies, blogs, and 24 hr. shopping at a click of a button. We can Google any random question and easily go down the rabbit hole by clicking on more and more links. The problem is it’s sucking time right out of our lives so we can’t get our kitchen cleaned or get enough sleep.

Like a kid in a candy store, we’re being enticed every direction we turn. These sources of information compete for attention. They aren’t bad in themselves, . . . they're bad in excess. There’s so much information and it’s difficult to choose what to use and what to ignore.  

What’s the solution?

A.     I can get swept away by technology

B.     I can ignore it all together, cross my arms across my chest and proclaim, “I don’t waste my time on Facebook!”

C.     I can learn about technology and enjoy the benefits which improve my life. I can have "IT" instead of "IT" having me.

Critical Skill

Managing our time with information technology will be the next critical skill necessary to be an productive member of society. We can't be be yanked around by its tempting pull and understand IT to use it effectively.

It’s easy to understand the attraction of technology.  What’s hard is deciding how to choose what's in our own best interest when there are so many new and shiny options tempting us.

Here are a few suggestions I’ve come up with to handle IT:

1.      Limit your time with technology. Try one of these options:

  • Set an alarm - yep, the one that’s on your phone
  • Ask someone to hold you accountable - this can backfire if you’re prone to shoot the messenger 
  • Be firm with yourself - I’ll watch 1 hour of TV today and that’s all!  

Look at holding to these limits as little ways of being disciplined with yourself.  You’re building a muscle which will be useful in all areas of your life.  Look at it as a victory that you stopped at 1 hour of TV.  You can always watch the next episode of Modern Family tomorrow.  It’s not going anywhere.

2.      Just Say No – Nancy Reagan made this famous statement about drugs in the 80's but it applies to us and technology today. If you think that you may waste 2 hours by turning on the TV, just say no and chose the radio or the one of the music apps on your phone. If Facebook draws you in like a bear to honey, save your Facebook time for when you're stuck doing nothing like waiting for an appointment. 

3.     Work at Work - Don’t do your online shopping, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter at work.  It affects your performance and it’s stealing from your employer.  When we spend the hours that someone is paying us to do one thing on our personal monkey business, it wars with our soul. We know deep down that we wouldn’t like someone doing that to us.  If you need to text your brother about the muffin you had this morning at work, use your break time to do that and put your phone in a drawer so you won’t be tempted to use it while working.

4.      Listen to background music instead of turning on the TV - Connect your phone to a Bluetooth speaker and put on some music that will calm you down or that you can dance to (if you’re in the mood for that).  Background music will set the mood and even help you be more creative!

5.      No phones at the dinner table – Dinnertime is for eating, not texting, taking pictures or catching up on a few emails. Having your phone at the dinner table tells others you are just waiting for something more interesting to happen rather than talk to them. Use dinner time for conversation and enjoying your food.

6.      9:00 Rule – We instituted a 9:00 rule at our house.  At 9:00 pm, we can no longer look at our phones.  Ok, ok, I’ve cheated a few times and there is NO EXCUSE!  This is a time for my husband & me to talk to one another without being distracted by IT.  Studies show that no screen time an hour before bed allows you to sleep better.  I dare you to try it.

7.      Charging - Charge your phone in a room that you’re not sleeping in. Get those bells, dings, and lights out of your sleeping space.  It will help you sleep better.   

Full Disclosure - I have my phone charging right next to my bed but I’m such a sound sleeper that I could have a marching band go through our bedroom and I wouldn’t wake up. My kids loved that when they came home late.

8.      Be a role model for your children – Steve Jobs and other technology geeks didn't allow their children to use cell phones or Ipads because they knew the detrimental impacts of constant usage. If you won’t manage technology for yourself, at least manage it for your children until they have the impulse control to do it for themselves.

What is "IT" to you?

When it comes to technology, does IT have you or do you have IT?  Would you be able to go without it for a week? Has your use of technology caused any relationship problems? Do you see it as a nifty gadget or app to improve your life or something you get panicked about when it’s not within arms-reach? Do you have a little FOMO (fear of missing out)? Are you hiding behind a screen because it’s difficult for you to have a face to face conversation?

Be Aware

The most important step to solving any problem is awareness.  Get real with yourself about how much technology manages you instead of you managing it. Then use one of the suggestions above.  Figure out a way to be accountable to yourself or someone else as you learn to manage information technology. 

Getting control of "IT" will improve our lives.