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Taking Time to Unplug

Sometimes we’re too connected to our electronic toys and that supposed connection interferes with our relationships. Undivided attention may be rare today, true, but here’s a good first step: put away your cell phone.

A recent Microsoft study of Canadians revealed that the average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds; that figure fell to only eight seconds in 2013 – one second shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.

“With news reduced to 140 [Twitter] characters and conversations whittled down to emojis (tiny cartoons to convey reactions and emotion), how is this affecting the way consumers see and interact with their worlds?” researchers wondered.

First, your spouse hates it when you look at your phone at dinner – at least my wife does with me. My wife is right: I don’t need to constantly look at my phone. I can’t remember an instance where I didn’t look at my phone for a few hours then had a major problem.

More business owners than ever work through vacations and other time off. Isn’t it time you unplugged a little? I never heard of a study concluding that constant connection helps your well-being. Even if you love what you do, you need to disconnect.

You need to take time to really be with other people. You might find your business endlessly fascinating, but do your spouse, close friends and loved ones?

Sure, I sometimes obsess about a new project, telling myself that my incessant interest will go on just for a few days and then I’ll back off. Problem is, another project always follows.

More than one business owner lost a marriage because he or she didn’t find time for the spouse. Be aware of this danger and make time for other things you and your spouse can do together.

The world won’t end if you don’t answer email for a few hours. I admit this can be tough: I often feel that one reason people like working with me is because I’m very responsive and answer emails quickly. Nevertheless, I’m at the point where I know I can be off line for a few days and the world keeps spinning.

Set limits with those who like to contact you after business hours. Too bad my sister-in-law never learned this lesson. She worked for a national company and every time we visited she spent a lot of time working on business while she was supposedly on vacation.

Then I found that many times I let others set my agenda, even during hours when I was to spend time with friends and family.

Beyond missing out on fun, your brain and body simply need the break. Today’s world makes working all of the time easy. I think that if you follow this schedule too long, you might just end up like me – in a hospital trying to get rid of rampaging cancer.

Find time to meditate and real conversations with friends. And most important, turn off your phone at dinner.

(Take our survey about what keeps you up at night.)

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Josh Patrick is a founding principal of Stage 2 Planning Partners in South Burlington, Vt. He contributes to the NY Times You’re the Boss blog and works with owners of privately held businesses helping them create business and personal value. You can learn more about his Objective Review process at his website.

AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily.


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