How Leaders Can Develop Better Habits Around Technology

These days, any discussion on the topic of habits needs to include technology. More than any other factor, technology has a tremendous impact on how humans engage in habitual behaviors. For leaders, the relationship with technology is a crucial one. Good habits around technology can help them inspire their teams in exciting ways. Bad habits can lead to complete organizational dysfunction.

In my previous blog post, I defined a habit as an automatic response to a situation or event. They key word in this definition is “automatic.” Think about that for a second, and then consider your habits around technology.

Do you ever seem to pick up your phone and start scrolling through your social media feeds for no apparent reason? Do you ever find yourself going down an email rabbit hole for several minutes when you meant to only take a second to respond to someone? Do your eyes hurt at the end of the day because you’ve been staring at screens for so long?

If you’re like a lot of leaders, you probably scold yourself from time to time for a lack of discipline in your relationship with technology. But you should let yourself off the hook. Technology makes it deceptively easy for people to build habits quickly. And many of those habits take people away from acting in accordance with their values. It’s an insidious process, largely because it all becomes automatic in such a short amount of time.

As a leader, you need to use technology to succeed in our modern world. But you also have to recognize how to build habits of success around technology while avoiding habits that subtract from your leadership abilities. It can be tricky. However, with self-awareness, mindfulness and a bit of discipline, you can build a set of habits that enhances your ability to lead successfully.

Using Technology as a Tool for Better Leadership

I want to explore some of the more common bad habits surrounding technology and leadership. But first, I want to talk about how leaders like you can build positive habits with technology. Technology is neither good nor evil; it is what we do with it that determines whether it helps or hurts us. If you build habits that favor using technology wisely and productively, you can enhance your ability to lead and inspire tremendously. If, on the other hand, you cultivate negative habits around technology, you can weaken your leadership considerably.

So, what are some of the good technological habits you can develop?

I suggest finding ways to use modern technology to your advantage. Think about your mission, your values and your beliefs. Consider the areas where you are an expert or authority. Technology makes it possible to share your thoughts, ideas and expertise in an unprecedented manner. This blog is a great example. Every week, I get the chance to transmit my thoughts and beliefs to a wide audience through this blog. It connects me with readers who often comment and continue conversations with me through email or instant messaging. It is nothing short of amazing, and it’s truly one of the cornerstones of communication for my business.

Other leaders have podcasts or YouTube channels where they can discuss issues of importance to them. And for many leaders, technology helps them stay connected to team members who are widely dispersed geographically, allowing them to disseminate their messages to their teams easily and consistently.

When you use technology to your advantage in this way, you solidify your authority and expertise while connecting with real people, whether they are an audience within your organization or outside of it. You also serve as a model of how to use technology in a useful manner. Your people are paying attention to you and how you operate; when you integrate technology into your leadership effectively and in a way that enhances your abilities, you provide an excellent example to the future leaders of your organization.

Good technology habits require consistent application and practice. Sitting down to write a blog post takes time and concentration. Engaging with people in a meaningful way – whether through technology or not – requires focus and thoughtfulness. You cannot sleepwalk your way into developing good habits; you must build them like muscles.

Take some time to determine the types of technological habits you’d like to cultivate. Do you need to communicate more effectively? Do you need to be more consistent and disciplined in terms of how you would like to connect to the larger world via technology? How much time will it take you, each day, to tend to your new, positive technological habits? There is no escaping technology. Therefore, the leaders who embrace it and build positive habits with it will be the ones who succeed. Are you going to be one of them?

Leadership, Technology and Ergonomics

Leaders tend to work long hours, and they put a great deal of stress on their minds and physical bodies. The extra problem these days is that the long hours are often spent seated behind desks with bad posture and eyes glued for hours on device screens. Leaders also tend to take their work home with them, which means even more time spent with bad posture and eye strain.

Many of the bad technology habits of leaders are centered on overuse and improper ergonomics. Again, these behaviors become automatic habits, to the point that leaders don’t realize that they are harming themselves and their organizations.

Here’s some advice on how to change some of your ergonomic habits for the better:

  • Be mindful of your posture as you sit at your desk. Keep a straight back with your feet flat on the floor. If you find yourself beginning to slouch, gently remind yourself to return to the proper posture.
  • Consider using a standing desk, which allows you to work while on your feet. This is great for the body, causing less fatigue, plus it helps you prevent some of the negative effects of an otherwise sedentary work environment.
  • Practice the “20-20” rule: if you have been staring at a screen for 20 minutes, take a break to walk around (and not look at a screen) for at least 20 seconds. Or you can implement the “20-20-20” rule, which means that after 20 minutes of staring at a screen, you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Limiting your screen time to 20-minute stretches will help you avoid eye strain and structure your days more appropriately.
  • Don’t bring your devices to the dinner table or the bedroom. And especially don’t bring them there to work on things that could wait until the next day at the office. Engaging with technology during times that should be spent unwinding or relaxing can have the opposite effect, leading to reduced sleep, increased irritability and ineffective leadership.

Clear the Clutter

One of the more common bad habits I see regarding technology is allowing clutter to build up quickly. The top of your desk might be clean and orderly, but your computer’s desktop might be a real mess. Folders and files get strewn about easily in a virtual space, and it is easy to get disorganized. But all this disorganization and clutter takes away from your ability to be a focused, grounded leader.

Here are some good habits you can develop around digital clutter:

  • Take time to delete unused apps from your phone or tablet
  • Place files from your computer’s desktop or downloads folder into the appropriate subfolders
  • Place new files and folders in the appropriate place right away instead of letting them clutter your screens.
  • Take five minutes each day to organize your email inbox – you don’t have to get it looking perfect right away. But if you spend a little bit of time on it each day, you will be amazed at your progress, plus you will develop a strong, positive habit.

Turn Off Push Notifications

Push notifications are a deadly productivity killer. For many leaders, they are incredibly disruptive and can lead to the formation of some terrible habits.

You know what I mean: you receive an email notification that you feel cannot wait until you have completed your current task. So, you check the email, respond and then check on some other emails. Then you check your texts or instant messages and get back to people there. This is followed by some internet browsing as you look up an article or study that you had promised to send someone. Meanwhile, an hour has passed, and you have forgotten what you were working on in the first place!

Turning off push notifications can prevent this cycle from happening. This action won’t necessarily lead to good leadership habits, but it will prevent a lot of bad ones.

It’s All About Mindfulness

Building good habits and limiting the bad ones around technology is not easy. Our world requires us to interface with devices almost constantly, which can lead to a host of negative habitual patterns. Building good habits requires discipline and time that technology tends to take from us.

By practicing self-awareness and mindfulness, you become more aware of your choices, and habits become less automatic. If you are mindful, you give yourself a moment to pause and reflect before you pick up your phone again or mindlessly check your email. And by being mindful, you are better able to tune in to your values, your mission and the goals you are trying to achieve.

What Are Your Technology Habits?

I will be continuing the discussion about leadership habits next week. But first I want to get your feedback on the challenges you face with technology.

What habits have you gotten into, good or bad? How have you coped with technology’s demands on your time and energy? Have you tried any of the advice I’ve presented here?

I would love to know what you think about this important topic, so please leave me a comment or send an email to joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca.

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