How to Use Technology Mindfully
Can technology be used mindfully? Anything can be done with awareness, wisdom, and compassion is a form of mindfulness. Although mindfulness has traditionally been associated with more natural surroundings, there’s no reason why mindfulness can’t be applied between uses of and while using technology.
Technology can help to make you more mindful. Various phone apps, computer programs, and online courses encourage greater mindfulness. Even a few computer games show you how to be more mindful or remind you to tune into your breathing.
Use mindfulness to focus on one task
Multitasking is impossible. When you think you are multitasking, you are actually switching from one task to another, creating the illusion of doing several tasks at once. Multitasking is often an inefficient way of working.
Are you a so-called multitasker? If so, you’re not alone — nowadays most people try and use multitasking to finish more work in less time. Multitasking can become particularly prevalent when using technology. But the strategy often backfires. The process can also lead to you feeling unfocused, making mistakes, and getting wound up.
Here are some common examples of multitasking when using technology that lead to less efficiency rather than more:
- Having lots of windows open on your computer: Having too many windows open not only slows down your computer, making your work take longer to do, but also makes you more likely to move between one task and another, rather than finishing one task and then starting the next.
- Emailing while working: Most people leave their email program open all day and reply to messages as they arrive. Doing so distracts you from your work and can leave you feeling frazzled by the end of the day. Try turning off your email notifications for a day to see what happens.
- Sending texts while crossing the road: Typing a text message needs your full attention. You’re breaking the law if you use your mobile phone while driving, for good reason — you can’t concentrate fully on two things at once. The same applies to crossing the road.
- Using your phone or computer while eating lunch: Make time for a break at lunch. Applying a mere 15 minutes of mindfulness helps you make better choices about what you eat and aids your digestion. If 15 minutes is too hard for you, try just a few minutes of eating without distractions. Your entire afternoon may go more smoothly if your lunchtime is a bit more mindful.
- Using digital technology while driving: It can be tempting to check emails, send texts, and see who’s up to what on Facebook while behind the wheel. If you lack mindful awareness, you may easily develop this dangerous habit.
If you’re a multitasker and are convinced that doing several tasks works for you, so be it. But if you feel that life is too frantic and would like to explore a different way of working, give single-tasking a try, even for short blocks of time. Do one thing at a time with your full attention, and see what happens. Start with 10 minutes or 30 minutes — whatever you can manage.
Try keeping just one browser window open at a time on your computer. Doing so makes you feel more focused and efficient. Complete the task you need to do with that window and then close it.
Technology that enhances focus for mindfulness
As well as all the methods of discovering mindfulness that are available online, programs to enhance your focus also exist. They block Internet access or analyze how you’ve used your time while on the computer. A few of these programs are described next.
SelfControl for Mac is a free program that you can use to block whatever websites you find yourself wasting time on. So, for example, you can block access to your Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as your email, for a time period of your choice. You might use this program for several hours during the day when you need to focus on writing or just need a break.
The Internet itself can seem like a distraction sometimes. The Freedom program works on the iPhone, the iPad, and Mac and Windows, and blocks complete access to the Internet for whatever period of time you choose.
If you use your computer a lot, RescueTime may be a good program for you. It runs in the background and keeps a record of how long you spend using different programs during the day. It then uses the data to calculate your productivity. The program presents graphs to show you at which parts of the day you were most productive, and which periods of time you spent surfing the Internet, reading blogs, and so on. The amount of detailed feedback this program provides is fascinating. The basic version of the program is free.