5 tips for unplugging in higher ed

It's not just young people who are addicted to their devices.

No matter how many articles extoll the health benefits of unplugging, it's easier said than done for many of us. In a recent article for Inside Higher Ed, doctoral candidate Megan Poorman shares strategies she's used to reclaim her day from her phone.

1: Get rid of email notifications. Very few emails are truly urgent, Poorman notes, adding that she's gradually realized most email is merely "a distraction." Email is so loathed that some organizations have experimented with turning it off entirely. Poorman recommends manually checking your email every few hours at most. If there are people who may need to get hold of you faster than that, she suggests giving them an alternative way to contact you in an emergency, such as your phone number or desk location.

2: Minimize other notifications.  While you're at it, review the notification settings on your other phone apps. Your goal is to minimize notifications as much as possible—and you can probably start by turning off all social media alerts, Poorman notes. "It's probably not worth disrupting lunch with a friend to see what another friend in another city is eating for lunch," she writes. Alternately, consider downloading an app that helps you set different alert settings for different times of day or using your phone's built-in "do not disturb" setting. As Leslie Ye of Hubspot has noted, "Even if you're one of those people who is completely comfortable with 9,378 unread notifications, they say 'ignorance is bliss' for a reason."

The last people on campus you'd expect to resist digital learning innovations

3: Make it harder to access your biggest distractions. If you notice yourself regularly distracted by a particular app, delete it from your phone and force yourself to re-download it the next time you want to use it. If the culprit is a website on your phone or computer, log out of your account. Adding an extra step between yourself and the distraction helps you become more aware of their power over you, Poorman writes.

4: Keep technology at a distance. A study published by Social Psychology found that having your phone near you can be distracting even if you're not using it. Poorman suggests putting physical distance between yourself and your phone to avoid the distraction. For example, Poorman suggests leaving it across the room when you go to bed and leaving it at your desk when you walk down the hall to the water fountain. Putting your phone and computer out of sight during meetings can also help you focus on each speaker and ask more thoughtful follow-up questions.

5: Enjoy your surroundings. After you follow this advice, you'll begin to notice just how often others are glued to their phones, Poorman writes. You might feel self-conscious at first, but that feeling will fade, she notes. Take the opportunity to people-watch or appreciate the scenery. Plus, research has found that boredom is critical to creativity. When you think you're merely "spacing out," your subconscious may actually be hard at work making the connections that lead to a "Eureka!" moment  (Poorman, Inside Higher Ed, 12/19).

You're never bored, and that's a problem


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