Step away from the gadgets and nobody will get hurt

Step away from the gadgets and nobody will get hurt

Summary: Smartphones and tablets tap into the vast information superhighway, and the lure to always be doing that is very powerful.

(Image: CNET)

The scene: any restaurant in any town. Two or more folks are sitting at a table, not saying a word. They all have a smartphone in hand, tapping or swiping on the screen, totally ignoring one another.

You've almost certainly seen this more than once, maybe even today. Odds are you've been in that group staring at the phone, instead of interacting with those around you.

The lure of always being connected to work, the web, and acquaintances other than the ones you happen to be with, is great. There's a vast amount of information out there and the thought of being disconnected from it, even for a short while, makes you uncomfortable. So, you always have a tablet or phone in hand, even when you should be relaxing.

It does little good to leave the office for a lunch break and to spend the entire time handling work stuff on the gadget at hand.

This is common, and it's eroding the ability that many have to disengage from work. Whether the gadget at hand is supplied by the employer, one in a BYOD program, or a purely personal device, it's constantly connecting the user to the job.

I'll bet most folks are actively handling work tasks more hours than ever before. Maybe it's to read and respond to an email from a coworker, return a text message, or look at the latest financial spreadsheet. Whatever the activity, it is causing thoughts to shift back to work instead of focussing on the leisure activity at hand.

It's common sense that it's wise to take frequent breaks from work during the day. It lets the body, and more importantly the mind, recharge by standing down from the pressures of work. Just a few minutes away from the problems and stress of work-related activities can go a long way to allowing both the body and mind to relax and escape.

In addition to work breaks, it's more important to step away from the tablet or phone during off hours. It does little good to leave the office for a lunch break and to spend the entire time handling work stuff on the gadget at hand.

The lunch break should be spent relaxing and getting away from the job, not continuing to work.

After work hours it's crucial to do the same, put the phone down when out with family and friends. Talk to them about anything but work. Escape from the rat race when provided an opportunity to do so. No email, texts, nor surfing the web. Take advantage of the down time to give your mind a good recharge. This will pay bigger dividends in the long run than any benefits gotten through working all of those extra hours.

The following rules can go a long way to helping relax instead of working:

  • No phone or tablet in hand when out with others. No exceptions.

  • When dining alone, no working on a phone or tablet. Reading novels is fine, but that's it.

  • Ignore notifications for incoming email, social media updates, and text messages when dining or taking a break.

Following these guidelines can help anyone get much needed down time. It won't be easy to break old habits, it may take a strong effort to disengage from work and the web. The only sure way to do it is to step away from the gadgets and enjoy life regularly.

As ZDNet's Jason Perlow says, keeping one's attention on a gadget can steal moments that will be lost forever. That's very true, and just as importantly it prevents giving the mind a much needed rest.

Don't just take a vacation break once a year, take little breaks whenever possible. And keep the gadget out of your hand when you do.

See related:

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones, Tablets, Bring Your Own Device

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  • The world has become too busy

    And people fill their lives with nonsense. Constantly on the go, constantly competing, always chasing something new...largely for show. Then when we do sit down for a meal, we aren't thankful, we complain and nitpick and shovel the food in as quickly as possible. Then we make small talk about the stupid things celebrities do, or we talk politics, or perhaps we talk about ourselves and never listen.

    You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy a good sabbath, take a day and shut down, no tv, nothing electronic. No driving and no complaining! Try it. It works wonders.
    • You nailed it.

      A pretty accurate description of the rituals and behavior of the human race.
    • Agreed

      I'm a Sabbath keeper, not Jewish. In my life I find it invaluable to put everything away for one day and just rest. None of it is that important that it can't wait one day and it and all those burdens will be waiting for you when you're done. That one day of rest makes a huge difference in my mental and physical health. Take care of yourself.
  • Your electronic device has an on/off switch.

    Turn it off.

    Problem solved.

    Resume living your life.
    • Not a practical answer for most.

      That's fine if your a casual user. If your addicted like many are, then this is like telling a heroine addict to just stop, or a smoker to just quit. There are a lot of people that cannot be away from their phones for even a short time. And perhaps what is worse is many of them do not know they are addicted.
  • No Life

    I think Jay Leno stated it best while discussing the possibility of getting cancer from cell phone use - nobody cares if people who use their cell phones 24/7 get cancer. Being "connected" gives those whose lives have no real meaning a sense of importance, makes the feel better about themselves (which is what it is all about if you believe in the current education system).
  • Irony.....

    I find it extremely ironic that years ago....if you didn't have a cellphone you were considered an outcast, and that there was this huge mad scramble to be "connected" in whatever way you could be (AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, MSN etc...) now?...we actually have to "unplug" ourselves from the very same technology that we scrambled for all those years ago!...As for myself, while I might spend a lot of hours on the PC when I'm home...dabbling in Linux distros, and administering my other PC's I don't really LIKE being connected all the time! I think if God wanted us to be THAT connected?...He'd have given us strings from our belly buttons to tie-in all of our connections!....LOL!
  • God


    Are we better than HIM??

    (see Genesis 1)
  • Considering the source :)

    Wow! I am uber-impressed by the fact that this point of view is coming from a tech writer! I'm in agreement with pretty well everything you say, although I'm thinking the bigger issue is giving personal communications a rest, more-so than work. I was at the coffee shop the other day, and there were nine twenty-somethings sitting in a circle in their leather chairs and couches, drinking coffee, and all but one on their smartphones. Not a word being exchanged! How sad.
    Skyped with my geographically distant daughter the other night, and she's texting her friends while we're on the call!
    Alas, will we ever recover? I'm sure similar things were said when the phone (remember the phone - had wires?) came out - people said there would never be any more face to face communication. (to set the record straight, I _don't_ remember the phone being commercialized). Similar with email replacing hand-written letters.