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to resolve issues, by picking up the phone or
meeting face-to-face. As a result, he saw an
80 percent email drop-off in the first year and
noticed a reduction of unnecessary reports
sent and excessive cc-ing. The policy changed
habits, not just on Fridays. “People actually
started talking to each other,” says Dockter.
To overcome technology addiction, Dr.
Basha advises that we create awareness of the
problems associated with technology addiction
first and foremost. Like with all addictions,
consciously accepting and admitting that
there is a problem is part of the solution.
“Next, highlight the importance of spending
time together in the family and with friends,”
he says and encourages physical activity like
games and outdoor sports activities. “Also
encourage writing skills and other creative
habits such as learning a musical instrument or
art,” he says.
It’s very much possible to disconnect,
says Tim Ferriss, best-selling author
of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5,
Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.
“The single greatest enemy of creativity
is overload,” he says. His advice to
disconnect is as follows:
Experiment with short periods of
inaccessibility. Your life won’t implode, Ferriss
says. “As with any addiction, there is a period
of withdrawal and anxiety.”
Leave your cell phone and PDA at home one
day a week. Saturday is a good day to cut off
email and cell phone usage. “For most people,
it will feel like a two-week vacation,” Ferriss
says. “The psychological recovery it offers is
pretty unbelievable.”
Set a “not-to-do list.” Don’t check email before
10 a.m. to avoid immediate reactive mode,
Ferriss suggests. Set intervals to check email,
for example, at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. Use
an auto-responder to explain that you can be
reached any time on your cell phone.
Eliminate rather than streamline whenever
possible. Lose the RSS feeder, Ferriss says. “If
you have an addictive impulse with tools, lose
the tool,” he says.
Hire a virtual assistant. “A big part of priority
management is teaching others tasks,” he says.
“A big part is getting over yourself. You don’t
have a superhuman email checking ability.”
Buddy up. Don’t go it alone on the road to
recovery, Hallowell says, because you’re likely
to revert to your old habits. Ask a colleague,
administrative assistant, or spouse to help you
enforce the new rules.
Learn moderation. “I’m not anti-technology,”
Hallowell says. “Some is good for you, but too
much is really, really bad.”
Modern Times
While we do rely heavily on the convenience
of being able to relay messages via email or
texting, the paradox of this new modernity
is that our connection to our smartphones,
tablets and Internet are interfering with
real world relationships--especially with
our children and partners and tilting life
completely out of balance. According to Dr.
S Altaf Basha, Professor of Internal Medicine
at GMC Hospital, technology addiction can
be anything from addiction to the excessive
use of smart phones—such as Blackberry or
iphones or even an addiction to watching
TV programmes for long periods of time or
spending excessive time behind the screen
of your laptop. “Still technology addiction is
different from other addictions as this has no
real direct threat to health,” he says. “Also it is
still not considered as dangerous to the person
or family nor is there social stigma attached
to technology addictions.” Most have us have
sent a text message in a restaurant or a social
gathering while others have secretly checked
personal email in the office. “And finally,
technology addiction does not come under the
jurisdiction of the law,” he says as is the case
with drug, alcohol or various other addictions.
In fact research shows that these days, we are
more wired than ever. An AOL study revealed
that 59 percent of PDA users check every
single time an email arrives and 83 percent
check email every day on vacation.
Early signs of technology addiction, points
out Dr. Basha, include spending an unusually
longer time with technological devices or more
frequent use. “Also using devices unnecessarily
without the pressing need to use it,” he says,
as in checking emails even late into the night
despite feeling sleepy or tired. The more severe,
full blown addiction signs include a student
neglecting his or her studies or neglecting
social responsibilities while indulging in
the technology addiction, he says as is more
common than not with students chatting
with friends on Facebook or using Blackberry
devices obsessively. “Two other extreme
signs of technology addictions are spending
huge sums of money to procure the latest
gadgets beyond one’s financial capabilities
and secondly, indulging in antisocial activities
through the medium of internet,” explains Dr.
Being constantly connected to technological
devices not only results in a loss of valuable
man hours, says Dr. Basha, but also finances
as the time spent connecting could have been
spent working in a more practical sense.
“Secondly, it can affect health indirectly
as people who are addicted to technology
become sedentary and are more prone to
sitting for longer periods of time with less
physical activity,” he says. “Often it can
also result in social problems such as a
breakdown of relationships, friendships and
in students especially, it can bring down their
academic performance.” And finally, over
connectivity often devalues the importance
of human relationships and written and
spoken communication—for example, texting
and email have almost replaced traditional
telephone calls and face-to-face visits.
Some offices have even made the effort to
disconnect collectively—as is the case with
Scott Dockter, president and CEO of PBD
Worldwide Fulfillment Services Inc., who two
years back, decided to take Casual Friday one
step further, and created email-free Fridays,
where employees are encouraged to talk offline
May/June 2013
When Maria and her
husband John decided to
go on a holiday recently to
The Maldives, Maria says
she was excited and was
anticipating an exciting and
fun holiday. But she was
instead completely hurt and
disappointed by her husband’s
excessive Blackberry use. She
explains, “For me a holiday
as a couple was like a second
honeymoon. We planned it for
months and my parents came
to stay with our three kids. But
from day one, John could not
leave his Blackberry alone.
Even during meals he would
stop mid-way and check if the
light flashed. I once saw him
at 4 a.m. checking and then
responding! A few times he left
the device in our hotel room
but sure enough the minute
we came back he would run
for it like it was an urgent
matter. By the end of our trip I
was so upset with him that we
were barely speaking...”