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Old Today, 05:37 AM
127 posts, read 39,181 times
Reputation: 58


Going out on a limb to share this, but this decade old article is still so helpful to almost all of us using tech devices which I have shared with many contacts over the years by email. Unfortunately, the Google link no longer works http://www.rd.com/family/dont-be-ove...p/article.html and the article below is not Googleable after a reasonable search. Its even more relevant today with smartphones, other digital devices, Facebook, Twitter, etc. not much around when this article first appeared in 2007-2008. Personally, it also makes suggestions to get away from the tech and to reign in the technology so it does not overtake us. Your thoughts?

If Readers Digest ever republishes and updates this article below, sometimes they reprint old articles, your feedback also can help them to update it.

Don't Be Overwhelmed by Technology -- Get a Grip
Work, e-mail, news, bills ... Tips on how to avoid technology overload.

By Ron Geraci
From Reader's Digest
January 2008

Never-Ending Workday
It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday, and Claire O’Connor is helping her seven-year-old daughter, Blaise, get ready for school—with one eye on her BlackBerry. While the self-employed New York public relations consultant was asleep last night, she received more than 25 e-mails, and she’s anxious to check them.

“My business depends on clients being able to reach me when they need to,” she says. These days, “when they need to” is anytime at all.

Before her head hits the pillow tonight, O’Connor will field some 400 e-mails, 100 phone calls and 20 text messages. She takes little comfort in knowing that few of the messages demand urgent attention. That’s because she’ll have to sift through them all before determining which are important. Somehow she’ll try to find chunks of time to get some actual work done.

“I never really feel like I’m finished for the day,” O’Connor says. There’s always one more task, one more call, one more e-mail. And no matter where she goes, her BlackBerry and cell phone are close by.

Always on like most responsible people, O’Connor grew up believing she had to finish her homework before she could go out to play. Now, for her and many of the rest of us, the homework never seems to end. Surveys show that the average office worker sends and receives 108 e-mails a day—an onslaught of electronic clutter that can take hours to slog through. Even when we manage to clear out the in-box and escape our desks, most of us are still reachable by cell phone or some other handheld device. Sure, these gadgets add convenience and fun to our lives, but there’s a price to be paid.

“Technology is allowing us to do things we’ve never been able to do, and it’s positively incredible,” says Edward M. Hallowell, MD, author of CrazyBusy. “The downsides are that it’s addictive and you can become tied to it in ways that are exhausting.”

There’s little evidence that the rapid pace of technological innovation has made life markedly more enjoyable. In fact, it may be doing the opposite. Consider a 2007 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), which found that 48 percent of Americans feel their lives have become more stressful in the past five years. Then consider that all our electronic communication hasn’t slowed the raging flood of snail mail, memos, books, magazines and other print matter that most people read to keep up on the job. No wonder that more than a third of those surveyed by the APA said a major factor feeding their stress was work encroaching on personal time.

When Do You Quit?
“There’s a strong tendency for humans to do everything they are able to do,” says architect Richard Saul Wurman, author of Information Anxiety 2. Combine that compulsion with constant connectivity and the workday need never end. For many people, wireless devices like cell phones (243 million Americans own one) and BlackBerrys are the main culprits. They just make it too easy to contact anyone, anytime. And with information always available online, you can keep clicking forever. Complicating matters, says Wurman, is the explosion of what he calls noninformation—the Internet’s jumbled mass of raw data, which fuels anxiety because you can’t digest it all, yet feel compelled to keep trying.

“If you give in to it, the searching will never end,” Dr. Hallowell explains. “You have to reconstruct the boundaries that technology has taken down.”

O’Connor remembers when the boundaries were clear: “Years ago, I was forced to stop working at a point. It simply got too late to make more phone calls.” Now, for a break, she hides behind a mountain, literally, at her Pennsylvania country house.

“There’s no cellular signal out there,” she says. “If they ever put up a tower, I’ll probably sell the house.”

A Nation of Grazers
We humans are natural-born suckers for anything that lets us escape the tedium of work. And the wireless age has opened the floodgates of momentary distractions. The barrage of e-mail, phone calls, text messages and new info from websites provides a steady flow of interruptions we can tap—or that can tap us—at any given second.

We’ve developed what Dr. Hallowell and his colleagues term pseudo-attention deficit disorder. Our brains are trained to constantly flit around the universe of messages and information, seeking brief hits of excitement. Grazing ceaselessly, we never dig too deeply before moving on to the next distraction.

E-mail may be the worst offender. And it has a more sinister effect than just wasted time. It ratchets up our stress levels in ways we’re only starting to understand, experts say. Each message requires multiple judgment calls that tax the neural network: How quickly must I reply? Why did she CC me? Why did she CC the CEO? Why didn’t he reply? Is she angry or am I misreading her tone?

Each of those questions causes stress. Talking in person or by phone is different; vocal cues and body language give context that’s absent online.

Info Attack
“We now get more information in 72 hours than our parents likely received in a month,” says David Allen, author of the productivity bestseller Getting Things Done. “Most people don’t have the skills to deal with this. They let new things in but don’t get rid of old info they wanted to act on.”

And when physical health is at issue, the flurry of raw info can be life-threatening. That’s because patients are researching symptoms online, confronting doctors with reams of printouts and often demanding that their courses of treatment be altered.

Stopping digital misinformation from hurting patients is a new worry for Donna Sweet, MD, professor of internal medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita. And it’s an extra layer of work added to all the print and electronic material she already reads. “I have a lot of savvy patients,” she says, “and their research is helpful. But many others are bringing in dubious information they don’t fully understand.”

Dr. Sweet goes through it all, trying to educate patients about what they’ve read. Increasingly, she can’t do so in person: Patients e-mail their concerns. She phones most back; the risk of a misunderstood e-mail is too great.

Hasty e-mail exchanges between staffers can also be a minefield, so Dr. Sweet asks them to e-mail her first, before venting to a colleague or administrator, especially after hours. She has found that people who type an angry e-mail, then hit Send, usually regret it later. In the days before instant communication, people had time to calm down, and she’s trying to re-create that cooling-off period.

A Fish in Water
For Griffin Kiritsy, e-mail isn’t a big problem.

“I send and receive hundreds of text messages a day but only about ten e-mails,” says the University of New Hampshire freshman. Kiritsy feels totally natural being electronically tethered to friends most of the day. A text message is a virtual shoulder tap among his peers; his cell is more of a long-distance intercom than a telephone. Websites aren’t just information sources; they’re gathering places. Attached to his wireless Sidekick, his fingers are communication appendages he uses with the same forethought he puts into breathing. Hopping on his Xbox 360 and playing Madden NFL against a teen at home in Australia—and trash-talking him on the console’s headset—is Kiritsy’s idea of unwinding between classes. He’s on the Net for four hours a day, often generating hundreds of instant messages in a half hour while “talking” to several friends in separate, simultaneous conversations.

But never on a Sunday. “Once a week, I shut off my phone and don’t use any electronic gadgets,” the 19-year-old says. “I read, play sports, relax and just recharge.”

Come Monday, Kiritsy is back to his studies—between instant messaging and posting comments on friends’ Facebook pages, that is. After all, there’s no point in being obsessive.

Technology -- What You Need to Know
8 Tips to Fight Info Overload
1. Spot the signs. Feel alone even as you communicate with people all day? That’s a signal technology is dominating your life.

2. Take baby steps. Try being inaccessible for short spurts to see what happens. The world probably won’t implode.

3. Repeat these four words: “I have a choice.” People who say, “My boss wants me to be reachable after 8 p.m.” are likely exaggerating the control others have over them.

4. Set limits. Rein in office e-mail and instant message traffic. Who truly needs 35 daily FYIs on the Henderson case?

5. Give clear instructions. Try an e-mail signature that reads “I answer e-mail at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. If you need a quicker response, please call.”

6. Make a task list. If you’re interrupted, you’ll get back to work faster if you have one.

7. Stick to a schedule. Handle recreational Web surfing and e-mail at set times. Dipping in and out is classic self-interruption.

8. Do a reality check. After five minutes of unplanned surfing, ask yourself, “Should I really be doing this now?”

The Multitasker Myth
It’s one of the digital revolution’s most annoying buzzwords: multitasking. It means doing more than one thing at the same time. Almost invariably, it means doing at least one of them poorly.

“Human beings can handle two simple, low-level cognitive tasks at once, like filing and listening to the radio,” says Dr. Hallowell. But a higher-level cognitive task (reading a report) takes dedicated brainpower to perform optimally. Adding even a simplistic activity (scanning the TV) diminishes the comprehension and recall of both. Research shows that multitasking is just a series of constant microinterruptions and stop-starts, all of which tend to reduce mental and motor performance.

“I had one patient who was a lawyer, and he negotiated an unbelievable deal that favored his client in a lopsided way,” Dr. Hallowell says. “I asked him how he did it, and he said, ‘I was the only one in the meeting who wasn’t using my BlackBerry.’ "

Last Updated: 2007-12-04

Last edited by sprklcl; Today at 06:26 AM..
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