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How to use your tech smarter for better wellbeing

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Feeling like your screens have taken over your life, with few benefits? Technology writer Seamus Byrne suggests an antidote to set things back on a positive path.

Why it’s time for a tech reset

It almost goes without saying that technology is now an essential part of our daily existence – and that has only increased with all that’s happened so far in 2020.  
But over the past decade, more and more of us have been feeling like our smartphones and screens are taking over our lives.  
That’s why a “tech reset” is a good idea: it will help to break your habitual tapping and scrolling, while returning your smartphone to its original purpose – making your life better. 
Here are 3 ways to rethink how you’re using tech and to rediscover its positive power. 

1. Uninstall time-wasters

You know the apps we mean. The ones you automatically open like an instinct, even if you were reaching for your phone to do something else. The ones where you endlessly scroll in search of anything to catch your eye, or the ones where you just tap mindlessly to distract yourself from what you probably should be getting done. 
There’s nothing wrong with downtime and relaxation, but the time- wasters really do interrupt our daily flow and it’s important to reclaim our attention with a sharp reset.  
You can always reinstall, but for now, you need to concentrate on using your phone less so you can rediscover the good things you haven’t been using it for. 

2. Define tech-free time

Setting times during your week when you firmly put all screens aside can be a great way to reclaim time for the things that mean the most in life. How far you go is up to you, but there are many different ways you can approach this.  
Some suggestions include:
  • Charging your phone overnight outside the bedroom
  • Putting your phone away for the night at 8pm
  • Taking a “digital sabbath” on weekends, where you spend 24 hours with no screens
  • Leaving your phone at your desk while you take a real lunch-break
If some of these seem too hard, maybe that’s because you really need tech-free time. If you’re worried that in putting your phone away at night you won’t be reachable in an emergency, explore the features in your device. Most phones will allow you to nominate VIP contacts who will be able to get through to you even if your device is on “Do Not Disturb” mode. 

3. “Foreground” the apps that elevate you

Once you’ve started to take back control, you’ll begin to remember what made you love your devices in the first place. Think about which apps you are missing desperately versus those you’re happy to have given up. 
Then re-explore your device’s app store to find more apps that help you with the things you want to achieve in life.

Want to learn a language? Put Duolingo on your home screen as a better way to “waste time” than social media.

Want to stop and meditate in those spare moments? Get Calm or Insight Timer. Take a digital class, use a digital habit tracker or learn to read music with an app. Or take more photos and get creative with editing apps. 
Whatever your goals in life, big or small, technology can help you get there. With a clear reset to step away from the attention-seeking apps and a move toward those that help you find greater clarity and focus, you’ll be loving your phone all over again. 

Want to know more about how you can keep the tech that helps and separate yourself from the rest?

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Seamus Byrne is an award-winning technology and digital culture journalist, and host of the Byteside podcast. He has covered the impact of technology on our lives for almost two decades, and currently is a columnist for the Australian Financial Review and a commentator across the ABC radio network.