Many of us have jobs that require us to focus on screens – a phone, a tablet, a computer. These devices are useful, at times they are necessary, but they also hijack our awareness. They engage our minds and attention in ways that can be addictive.

They require that we focus our eyes on small portions of the entire scope of our visual environment. They put our bodies into positions that distort them and can affect our health. They keep us from actually living that essential part of our lives which takes place when we are awake and alert in the present moment, interacting with people and nature and what is going on in our physical environment.

What do you notice about the quality of your awareness when your eyes become focused on a screen? Where does your mind go? What position does your body take? Most likely, whether you are sitting or standing, you are in a bit of a trance, your shoulders are hunched, and you are not moving your body.

Because of the trance-like states our screens can often create, it can be helpful to put in place some tools or practices that help us break up the trance and return to being more awake, aware, and in the present moment.

One helpful practice is using a timer that sounds an alarm to alert you when you have come to the end of a segment of time you have chosen for engaging in screen activity. This alarm is your trance–interrupting reminder that it is now the time to step away from your screen, change your focus, and recharge for a moment.

Especially helpful can be timers (such as the TimeTimer  that include a diminishing graphic that supports your awareness of the minutes remaining in your chosen task period. When the red disappears and the alarm sounds, a good practice is to set the timer for a brief break in which you

  • stand up
  • straighten your shoulders
  • stretch
  • move your feet to reconnect with the earth or floor
  • blink your eyes
  • breathe consciously
  • lift your gaze up and out toward the furthest thing you can see
  • take in a sense of spaciousness and expansion
  • possibly have a brief conversation with someone nearby
  • notice your greater awareness, increased energy, clearer focus.

This pause to reset is a good time to consider whether now is the right time to return to what you had been doing on your screen or whether there is another task that is a higher priority in this moment. Whatever you decide to do next, choose the number of minutes you would like to spend on that task and set the Time Timer or phone alarm again, for another 10-, 20-, 30-minute period of task focus to be followed by your next pause to reset.

This practice of disciplined regular disconnecting and looking up from your screen or other task can improve your productivity, your satisfaction, and even your health. At the end of a day in which you utilize this practice, you are likely to feel like you have worked more on the right tasks, for the right amounts of time, and with less tension and regret.

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