Recently, there was an article in Forbes about four questions every technology user should ask. The article neatly coincided with the National Association of REALTORs’ Center for REALTOR Technology’s (NAR CRT for short) new series called Re-ConnectED, which is exploring ways that we can find balance in our lives between technology and offline life. (You can find that series on CRT’s Bits & Bytes blog here.) The common theme between the Forbes article and CRT’s series is how do we balance our technology use with “real life”? As we grow more and more reliant on our devices, where do we find the time to set things aside for a moment? And why does it matter?
“FOMO” and “FOMM” Syndromes
Much has been made and reported about the “FOMO” or “Fear of Missing Out” syndrome. People constantly having to check email, online news sources, websites and social media all fall under that category. How many times do you hit refresh on your email? I think as real estate agents it can be particularly difficult to divest of the devices for a while because there’s a deeper fear involved – the FOMM (“Fear of Missing Money”). We’ve been trained that if we don’t respond to our clients in a timely (i.e. immediate) manner, we’ll miss out on the opportunity. So how and when do we find the time to let go?
Time-Block Your Day
Some of this has to do with time-blocking. It’s not a new concept – set aside specific periods of time for different tasks. Time-blocking becomes especially useful (and important), however, when technology is involved. Block time for specific tasks that don’t require immediate response times – this can be email campaigns, website work, social media, etc. Block “away” time from your devices as well. To reconnect with your family, consider your dining area a tech-free zone. Take some time every morning and every evening, even just 15 minutes, for yourself. Reflect on what you’re thankful for, reflect on the day ahead or just passed, or space out and don’t think at all! Give your brain a rest.
Control Your Email
Email alerts are part of what causes us, especially those in the real estate world, to have trigger-finger response reactions. Bells and whistles signal all sorts of incoming messages, and we’re bombarded every day with all sorts of email. Take back your email. Turn off unnecessary alerts for social media and invest some time in subscribing to services like Unroll.me, Sanebox, Unsubscriber, Mailstrom or TheSwizzle. These programs help you get some control back of what incoming messages are actually relevant to you, as well as what messages are hitting your inbox. You can also control your email more efficiently by setting up filters to redirect certain email, like subscriptions and mass mail, to separate folders, ensuring that the email in your inbox is what you actually need to see. Reconsider the audio alerts you use to signal incoming messages…are they all necessary? Or are they just driving you crazy?
Take Care of Your Body
One of the most damaging aspects about technology is its effect on your physical and mental health. From eye strain to neck and back pain to increased risks for diseases based on a sedentary lifestyle, technology can wreak havoc if you don’t take time to counteract some of the effects. The easiest way to manage some of the physical effects of using technology is to take walking and stretching breaks away from it. Be conscious of the light around you when you’re staring at a computer or phone screen – if it’s the only light in the room, there’s a chance it’s hurting your eyes (and fooling your brain!). Due to the nature of my work, I spend a lot of time in the evening and early morning on the computer. With the Mac, I use a program called F.lux to control the light emanating from my screen. You can get a similar effect by going into your computer and phone’s settings and controlling the brightness. Also consider alternatives for sitting at a desk/table/couch for work such as a standing desk or a treadmill desk.
As for the mental effects, the most important thing to remember is that what you see online isn’t always a true reflection of someone’s life offline. You might see a fellow agent with a million listings and perfect family photos – but you don’t know about the million listing appointments lost, the work that went into those listings and the photoshopping involved to get those family photos. There’s always more to the story than what you see online; often we put out there what we want others to see, the positives or negatives, instead of the whole truth. If you’re starting to get too invested emotionally with something or someone online, it’s probably time to take a 15-minute break and divert your attention elsewhere. After taking a deep breath and some time, you may find your perspective has changed.
While technology is an ever-increasing important aspect of real estate and personal life, there have to be limits set so that it doesn’t take over your world. With some of the steps above, you’ll be able to regain back some offline time, and hopefully be able to explore other ways of connecting with people. Remember that it’s all a balancing act – we use our connections online to continue the conversations we have offline, and vice versa.