How to use technology to be happier and more focused

We’re incredibly distracted by digital technologies.

One study found that average smartphone user today unlocks their phone 150 times a day. Each time you unlock your phone, you spend about a minute checking it. So that’s the equivalent of about two and a half hours of your day or 38 days a year.

The impact of that kind of distraction on our work is mind-boggling.

Technology is here to stay, it’s ubiquitous, and it has a lot of potential to make things better. But we must set boundaries and acquire new skill sets to successfully navigate the digital era.

Here are some practical strategies we can use to deal with technology at work and be happier and more productive.

Hide your phone

If you have your phone by your workstation or anywhere you can see it, your brain anticipates that you might get a message. That makes you less focused, less productive, and less connected to the work or the person to whom you’re speaking.

Put your phone behind your laptop screen while you’re working or in your bag while you’re talking to a coworker. Make sure it is out of your physical and visual space.

If you have it in your back pocket, and it might vibrate, or you have it on the table where you can see the screen light up, even if you don’t touch it, it could interfere with your productivity.

Take a tech-free break

One study found that workers who took breaks without their phones recharged faster and had less stress returning to work than those who took their phones with them.

If you’re going to take a break, don’t use your phone to catch up with friends or surf Facebook. Take time to refocus and set your eyes on something other than a screen.

Create boundaries

Set intentions and create reminders to help you develop willpower and habits. Think through the when, the where, and the why you’re using technology.

Not only does that make you more thoughtful, but it also refuels your well being.

Use data to set goals

I’m a numbers person. Apps that track your behaviors can help you change them.

It’s really helpful to have data to help you figure out what kind of changes you need to make and whether you’re making progress toward your goal.

Create positive habits

Part of why tech is so addictive is that it’s so good at keeping us accountable and drawing us back in. That makes technology great at helping us form habits.

When we’re able to see and understand what’s happening, it illuminates how we might be able to grow. For example, I use technology to track my fitness.

Train your brain

When we hear notifications on our phone, like Pavlov’s dogs, we react. It activates our flight-or-fight response. We feel like there’s a threat coming toward us.

Instead of thinking about things that interrupt us as threats, we want to think about them as challenges. We want to train our minds to outsmart technology to get ahead.

Fuel your happiness

How you use technology matters. If you’re using tech to zone out, it needs to go. If you’re using it to tune in and become more thoughtful, it’s amazing.

Technology can also be incredibly powerfully to help us connect with our social support system, which is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness and success.

Prepare for what’s next

Right now, a lot of people worry about smartphone usage because it affects them every day. In the future, we might be more concerned about the Internet of Things.

It’s useful to think two steps down the road.

What’s the trajectory we’re setting ourselves up on? What are we inviting into our lives? What are we helping create?

How does our behavior influence the market that’s emerging?

Amy Blankson is the co-founder of GoodThink and the author of two books, including the recently released The Future of Happiness.

As told to Kirsten Salyer.