How to deal with the electronic wild west…

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970’s, there were a huge variety of US sitcoms. And I loved them all. I would come home from school and immediately turn on the television. I would sit there utterly mesmerised and transfixed, watching show after show after show….

One day my father sternly proclaimed: “You’re watching an excessive amount of TV, and this has to stop NOW. I’m allowing you a quota of 30 minutes viewing per day. Choose whatever program you like to watch”. “Wow”, I thought. “How on earth am I going to reign in my viewing??”

One of my friends couldn’t get over how harsh my Dad had been. I’m sure she thought that he was some type of heartless ogre. But in hindsight, he was being cruel to be kind. It was the best thing that could have happened. This experience taught me self-control and discipline, and it gave me my time back to do other more constructive, active and fun things with my life, like read, practise my violin, ride my bike and help my parents prepare dinner.

We now live in an era where we’re getting sucked into distractions and time-wasters at every turn. Temptations abound – whether it’s in the form of downloadable movies, games, shopping web sites, TV shows, facebook, twitter, instagram, and even our own email and linkedin feeds. It’s too easy to interrupt our work flows to answer the call of the next ping and beep notification that pops up on our screens. Focus and productivity have taken a mammoth hit.

So what’s the solution to all these distractions vying for our time, that stand in the way of us achieving our big-picture goals. One word -LIMITS.

We need to apply limits to our behaviours in this electronic wild west. For example: if you’re a news and current affairs junkie (as I am!), then limit yourself to reading one good quality newspaper per day, rather than reading 5 different publications.

If it feels like you spend your whole day in your email inbox, again you need to apply some email limits. Completely turn off email notifications, so you’re not tempted to pounce on every email that lands in your inbox. Simply log into your email a few times a day – say in the morning, around lunch time and then again at the end of the day. Unless you work in a call centre and have to reply to emails immediately, it is fine to reply to others on your terms.

You can wean yourself off gradually or go cold-turkey – the choice is yours. The key thing is we need to be the adult in the relationship with ourselves. And not let our inner child run amok in search of the next shiny thing, the next mindless distraction…