Dr Amantha Imber (pictured below) is the Founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy and the host of How I Work, a podcast about the habits and rituals of the world’s most successful innovators. In the goodly Doctor’s latest column for B&T, Imber calls on tips from experts for when you’re getting overwhelmed by all the tech in your life…
Addiction to technology is one of life’s great equalisers. While we may think that the Gods of Silicon Valley and other successful and highly productive business leaders are immune, it turns out they are not. However, what is surprising are the methods they are using to break their addiction. Here are some of the ways they are tuning out of technology to help them tune into work or family.
They lock their phone away
Ex-Pinterest President Tim Kendall took on a new role about a year ago as CEO of Moment. Moment is a company dedicated to helping people have more time for life through spending less time on their phone. And his reason for taking on this new challenge was largely driven by his own problematic phone usage.
“I was struggling a lot with my phone usage a few years ago,” explained Kendall when I interviewed him on my podcast How I Work. “I did some research on it and one of the brute force approaches that they suggest for people who really have trouble getting off their phones, especially at night when you’re around your family and you want to be present with them, was this kitchen safe.”
The kSafe as it has since been renamed was originally designed as a product for dieters to lock away tempting food. You lock an item away, turn the clock on, and it counts down the time until the safe unlocks itself.
“There’s no backdoor and there’s no way to get into it. You just have to wait until the clock counts down and the thing unlocks.”
Kendall had some success using it to lock his phone away during family time on weeknights and weekends.
“The thing that works for me today is I have an office in my house. When I leave that office before I go have dinner with my family, I just leave my phone. On my best nights, I leave my phone in there and I don’t go and get it until the next morning. That’s effectively the same thing as putting it in a kitchen safe from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.”
“I find it hard and I go through withdrawal, but I also think that it has a meaningful impact on my relationship with my kids and my wife. I just feel less anxious and less psychologically toxic if I take a break like that from my phone.”
They lock themselves out of temptation
For business leaders and CEOs, staying off email can seem like a near impossibility on weekends and on vacation. But when Brian Scudamore, Founder and CEO of O2E Brands (a $400 million business and the umbrella company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, amongst others) started having kids, he knew something had to change.
“I’ve got three young kids and I want to be a present dad who’s hanging with them and not being on devices,” Scudamore explained to me on How I Work. “So the easiest way for me to get off email and get off social is my assistant changes my passcode.”
In other words, Scudamore can’t access his email or social accounts even if he desperately wanted to. Scudamore encourages all staff in his companies to take the same approach to staying off email during vacation. He calls it ‘going dark’.
Scudamore remembers when he first started asking his assistant to do this and his assistant asked him ‘What if the office burns down? Who should I call?’ “I’m like ‘Call 911. Call the fire department.’ What am I going to do if I’m off on vacation with my kids?”
Since starting this practice, Scudamore has never had anyone reach out and get in contact with him while on vacation. “And on vacation my brain is totally free from business and I get to enjoy that family time and personal time.”
They force others to get off the phone
While it’s all well and good to get your own mobile phone addiction under control, the reality is that we are only as good as those in our team. For Kevin Rose, founder of Digg and investor in companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Square, helping his leadership team stay off their phones to allow them to be present when it matters is critical.
“At True Ventures, we have meetings and we get a big box and everyone’s phone goes in a box,” Rose described to me on the How I Work podcast. “We meditate before we do our partner off-site meeting and then all of our phones go in the box and we leave them in there the entire day. It’s just getting rid of that distraction, putting it some other place.”
When Rose first introduced this idea, he admits there was some anxiety around it because of how addicted to devices most people are. But once people got used to it, the benefits started to flow. His team described how good it felt to be present, enjoy the conversations, and not have that thing that is always on them pull their attention elsewhere.
So if turning off notifications or going on airplane mode hasn’t made a dint in your phone addiction, it might be time to try a more extreme method.