Are gadgets making your life easier—or crazier? If any of these symptoms describe you, it's time for a digital detox.

desktop computer and digital photos

1. You're a master multitasker. You can e-mail a client, schedule a car repair from your landline, and text your teenager simultaneously. Except, well, you really can't. "Multitasking is a myth," says research psychologist Larry Rosen, author of iDisorder (Palgrave Macmillan). Studies show that people complete tasks far more quickly when they tackle them one at a time. For the sake of efficiency, stay focused—and turn off competing ringers and alerts.

2. Your patience perpetually runs low. You can book an international flight in 20 seconds, so why is that person taking forever to cross the street? "The speed of technology has made us more demanding off-screen," Rosen says. Be grateful that real life moves at a slower pace. In most cases, an extra minute or two won't make or break you.

3. You feel naked without your phone. On the surface, a smartphone seems like the perfect boredom buster: Playing with tech toys spurs the output of dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical. Over time, though, this can create a sense of dependency on your device, Rosen warns. Give your brain a breather and allow yourself to enjoy your idle moments.

4. You check your in-box and burn the chicken. How did that happen? You sat down to read an e-mail from your daughter's ballet teacher. Then you looked up leotards, which led you to YouTube videos of dance recitals, which brought you to bloopers from Dancing with the Stars, which—whoops, so much for dinner. Next time, avoid the rabbit hole by setting a timer for your Web session. (And just to be safe, set one for the chicken, too.)


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