Living In Screentime

When we talk about health for entrepreneurs, there are quite literally hundreds of directions in which we can go. Finding information that is important about the health of entrepreneurs to share is not the problem. Choosing which direction to take is the challenge. So this week, I am going to go in a direction that you may not expect. I’m going to weave a storyline that addresses topics that we see touched upon often but hopefully making this a series and a combo will make it come together and have a deeper impact for you. 
 
We discussed in the previous lesson that entrepreneurs, for the most part, enjoy the work that they do. Why is that more common in entrepreneurs than employees? First, they have more options to choose the work that they will do. Why would you choose to create a business that you don’t enjoy? And if you don’t enjoy it, as an entrepreneur, you have many more options to pivot and shift the work away that you don’t enjoy and spend your time on the work that you do like doing. You can hire to outsource the tedious tasks or figure out how to eliminate what isn’t important. We keep going back to that one word- options. Business owners are usually less afraid of risk so they might even just start over with a new business. 
 
But when you like your work, you like to work. But unlike what work looked like for previous generations, much of our work done as business owners occurs in front of a screen. Even if you do your best to avoid social media, set up time blocks or use Parkinson’s Law to be more efficient, we are still looking at a screen during much of that time. 
 
So if we address two factors- 1- business owners work sixty three percent more than employees and 2- much of that work is done in front of screens- we see that we are heading down a dangerous path that we warn our children of, but we don’t heed that warning for ourselves. 
 
We (hopefully) guide our children to not spend too much time staring at screens. But do we stop to consider how much time we spend on screens, and what that amount of screen time does to us physically and mentally? Unfortunately, this is all so new in the grand scope. According to Oxford University researchers Amy Orben and Andrew Przybylski, the science being used to figure out how much screen time affects us is not solid, and it covers too wide of a range of people in too short of a period of time. Even Tim Cook, the CEO for Apple, has stated that we spend too much time on our devices. 
 
The funny thing is, we use all of this amazing technology to become more productive. But by working to become more productive, we spend more and more time looking to do so that we actually become incredibly less productive, more sedentary and causing great strain to our bodies and our minds. 
 
I got off of a series of zoom calls a few weeks ago and, after turning away from the computer, felt a dizziness that was becoming a little too common after calls. It was almost like I was drugged but it wasn’t a drug that anyone would have taken voluntarily. There was a dizziness that made no sense. Of course, I went online to see what the issue might be. This is a funny, ironic little world that we created, isn’t it? It was now so common to be on these calls that I never thought there might be consequences that come from staring for long periods of time at two pieces of polarized glass with a liquid crystal type material sandwiched between them. That sounds natural, doesn’t it?
 
The average American spends more than eleven hours looking at screens per day. Do you think this could be affecting our health in a multitude of ways? Now, at this point, you might be getting a little frustrated at me. You might be thinking, Vin. I’m not some schmo scrolling Youtube and Instagram all day wasting time. (We know you are a little, by the way). I run a business and I need to be on the computer otherwise things will not get done. And, guess what. I believe you. I’m no different. I also believe I don’t waste time online (I’m lying like you are) and I also know that I need to be on the computer to get work done. I mean, I’m writing this on a computer and unless you printed this out, you are reading on one as well. 
 
So what do we do? Can we be more effective and spend less time online? Absolutely. That is classic 80/20, but it doesn’t happen immediately. Those are habits that we need to implement, and disciplines that we need to create. But is there anything that we can do right now to make an improvement? After my dizzy spell, I looked at a screen to get an answer that helped me improve my health while on screens. 
 
The American Optometric Association suggests a 20-20-20 rule. I read it, utilized it, and, amazingly, it began to work. Here’s how it goes. For every twenty minutes that you spend staring at a screen, take a twenty second break to look at something twenty feet away to give your eyes a break. That one little suggestion gave me a boundary and a framework that I didn’t utilize before and it helped reduce the strain that was being put on my mind, and my eyes. It has allowed me to implement a few other practices, like looking out of the window while I’m giving an answer to someone online. Not only does it allow me to unlock my eyes from the screen for a bit but I also found that my answers were crisper and more thought out because I allowed my mind to focus clearer by taking my eyes off of the screen. 
 
The problem with any type of comfort is that the problems that come from it sneak up so slowly that when they arrive, we don’t see it as a problem. It’s that way with bad habits. They don’t happen immediately and we don’t feel the effects right away. But compounded over time, they cause great pain and discomfort and we are so used to them, we don’t have the ability to recognize where the pain comes from. 
 
And speaking of pain, tomorrow we are going to address a pain that comes with this topic that is becoming more and more common but, up until recently, is hardly being discussed. I hope you join us tomorrow!

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