Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Step Away from Your Desk. Take a Break from Your Screen(s)

Like most teenage boys, my sons are on their devices pretty much all the time. As card carrying members of GenZ, they watch TV on their phones. They game (a lot) on their consoles. They’ve learned everything from the correct way to tie a bow-tie to building a drone from scratch via YouTube and eHow.

In short, they grew up with tech. Their devices are like appendages and 24/7 tech is part of their DNA.

While both boys (age 15 and 19) play competitive soccer, baseball, and other sports and seem to plenty of friends, they wouldn’t think twice about spending a beautiful summer day, holed up in the basement by themselves playing Fortnight for hours on end subsisting on pizza bagels, popcorn and juice boxes. If you have teenage sons or grandsons, you know what I mean.

That being said, my 15 year old spent four weeks unplugged from technology this summer. He spent three weeks at a sports camp in Maine living in a tent--a camp with a NO-ELECTRONICS policy. That was followed by a weeklong family reunion at a fishing cottage in remote western Michigan….spotty internet service at best.

Sure, he resumed his digital life the minute he returned home. But, he’s toughened up a little, both mentally and physically, and is showing a few glimmers of maturity sprinkled in with the teen slang, mood swings and snarky comments.
If he can take a tech break, so can you.

Whether gaming or working, research shows that sitting for hours without moving can slow the flow of blood to our brains, and that can have implications for your long-term brain health and productivity. But research shows that standing up and strolling away from your desk for just two minutes every half-hour seems to stave off this decline in brain blood flow and may even increase it.

So, ignore the angry stares of your colleagues, supervisors and clients. Get up from your desk at least once an hour to clear your head and recharge your battery. For more, see Why Sitting May Be Bad for Your Brain.

Your brain tricks you into doing less important tasks

As Tim Herrera explained recently in The New York Times, thanks to the urgency effect, our brains tend to prioritize immediate satisfaction over long-term rewards. Citing a Journal of Consumer Research study, Herrera wrote that we’re more likely to perform “smaller-but-urgent tasks that have a deadline” than to perform more important tasks that don’t have an immediate deadline. This is true “even if the outcome of the smaller task was objectively worse than that of the larger one,” added Herrera. He suggests setting your computer or phone to beep at you every half-hour and get up, stroll down the hall, take the stairs to visit a restroom a floor above or below your own, or complete a few easy laps around your office.

Our take: That’s not slacking off. That’s being more productive and creating better value for your clients, firm and colleagues. 

At our firm, we have a policy of “rough draft in the morning, final draft before you go home.” That means, you never turn in assignments or client work in the morning unless (a) you are 100-percent on you’re A-Game, (b) have double and triple checked your work and (c) have stepped away from your desk for a least an hour beforehand.

I routinely take 90-minute lunch breaks to train for triathlons, run errands and make doctor’s appointments. So do most of my colleagues. No checking email, text messages, or voicemails.

I can’t tell you how many times what looked so brilliant before my “decadent” lunch break, looked like crap upon my return. “Thank God I didn’t turn that piece of crap in,” I’ve told myself hundreds, if not thousands of times. And we’ve never lost a client because we were unreachable or unaccountable.

Avoid being on the grid 24-7,” advised Anat Lechner,  an NYU Stern School of Business  professor in a recent NY Times interview. “Carve out for yourself the three or four hours that you need every day to get off the grid and relax and teach the rest of the world, as well as yourself, that not all hours are email hours.”


Our take: While some of you are at the mercy or bosses, clients and HR directors who still place a premium on facetime, if you have 90 minutes away from your desk and come back 3x more productive, isn’t that a positive ROI on your human capital?

You can’t get that kind of ROI when you’re constantly connected to the grid.

For more on this topic, see our related posts Time to Take a Break from Technology and Too Many Gadgets, Too Little Time.

TAGS:  Digital detox, walk away from your desk, take a break from tech, digital distraction, work life balance, Fortnite addiction

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