Problem 3: Addiction and Distraction
Sure, the hardware we use today is problematic. But we wouldn’t find ourselves so glued to those screens if it wasn’t for addictive software. Even if we stay on task at work, many of us are guilty of gaming for hours at home, continuing to answer emails through dinnertime, or texting into the wee hours of the morning. This of course extends the amount of time we’re straining our muscles, but it also has serious psychological effects. Our kids become “Blackberry orphans,” (though now it’s probably more appropriate to call them “smartphone orphans).
As we try (and fail) to multitask, our attention becomes fractured; this in turn means that we perform worse on each individual task, and that we ironically spend more time doing everything. The brain, after all, only has so many attentional channels, and we struggle to think deeply, process, and actually absorb the information in front of us as we dash between different tasks. This puts creativity, innovation, efficiency, and productivity out of reach.
For many of us, there is no easy answer to technology addiction. After all, we really do need to be on our devices for much of our days, which is the equivalent of asking a gambling addict to quit gambling while working in a casino.
Still, all is not lost. Start by analyzing how you use digital technology so that you have a better sense of your habits. Keep a journal for a week to track your time. When did you use your iPad? For how long? What did you do on it?
Once you’ve done that, set yourself concrete but accomplishable goals for cutting back, whether it’s using your technology at home for an hour less than you do now or simply cutting out five minutes. Keep cutting back until you’re ready to set strict, formal limits you can actually stick to. Can you decide not to answer any emails after 6PM? Can you resolve to finish one book per week, so that you’ll have something you’ll want to do more than playing Candy Crush? You’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes — and at how differently your brain starts to work. Who knows? You may actually be able to concentrate again!
Problem 4: Hearing
An often neglected ergonomic issue when it comes to digital devices is hearing loss. Once the domain of rock band groupies and factory workers, hearing loss these days is a potential problem for anyone who carts around their entire music library in MP3 form. The problem? Headphones — and more specifically, earbuds — provide no buffer between your eardrums and a great number of decibels. Unfortunately, even a more reasonable sound level can damage the hair cells in the inner ear if you spend enough time listening. That means that if you’re listening to music all day at work, you may be at risk.
And of course, if you work in a more industrial setting than a desk, listening to audio on the job can lead to life threatening accidents, as you won’t necessarily hear that huge piece of machinery headed your way.
The best thing you can do: simply be wise about your volume. Lower the max volume setting on your device, and always listen at the lowest volume possible. The best way to test whether or not your volume is at damaging levels: have a friend or family member stand next to you and push play. If they can hear it, then it’s too loud.
Next Time On: My iPad is Killing Me!
On the next episode, we’ll take a look at how you’re sleeping. We bet you’re not doing as much of it as you’d like, right? We’ll see in the next installment!
**A note of thanks to Kathy Espinoza for her help in creating this series. To learn more about Kathy, please visit her Keenan & Associates blog.