Having a good relationship with digital technology is more important than ever. We don’t often make time to reflect on our habits and go one step further by trying to change them. I hope this blog is helpful in focusing your thoughts on what role technology plays in your work, home life and with other members of your family.
The digital revolution in the shape of the smartphones that we carry with use everywhere has brought with it so many positives. We can work ‘on the go’, from home, in the aisles of the supermarket, while we’re in the play park….but have we created a monster? You will know the feeling when you’ve lost your phone – utter fear. Our whole lives are scheduled on these devices and we rely far too much on them. There is no going back, they are part of the fabric of our lives now, but there ARE ways for YOU to be in control of your daily digital life.
Do you recognise any of these behaviours in yourself?
- Do you feel overwhelmed by technology?
- You know you are spending far too much time on your device
- You subscontiously scroll for hours without even realising
- You often experience headaches and eye strain
- Do you find it hard to make the distinction between ‘work life’ and ‘home life’?
- You often scroll in bed late at night
- Do you always feel like you are ‘catching up’ with digital innovations?
- Do you feel like you and your family rely on technology far too much?
We have tricked ourselves into believing our devices help us to ‘multi task’ but in fact many studies show that there is a significant drop in our cognitive capacities – humans cannot be attentive and focused when they are skipping from screen to screen.
We are endlessly distracted, with notifications popping up, a constant stream of emails and What’s App groups flooded with messages. Dopamine levels actually rise when we’re checking our emails – there have been extensive studies into our digital behaviours, which show that it can take up to 25 minutes to refocus after being distracted.
I’m sure you’ve experienced inconsiderate behaviour in public too – that person chatting on their phone whilst at the checkout, not looking up to say thank you or acknowledge the member of staff helping them. Studies show that people are less engaged and empathetic when distracted by their phone.
What are the benefits of a healthier relationship with technology?
What would your life look like if you managed to get your digital habits under a bit more control?
Reinforcing new habits will mean you are ‘freed’ from your telephone or ipad for more hours each day and that will make a big difference to your quality of life. It will help you to become more focused and productive, both in your workplace and at home. People often talk about being ‘present’ and this is probably what we should all strive for.
It is obvious to say, but by slowing down and taking a break, we are able to have greater clarity and be more effective when it’s needed.
- You will sleep better
- You will be able to think more clearly and focus
- You will feel less anxious
- You will be in touch with your own mind and body’s rythmns
Take back control
Just feeling like you are a bit more in control will help you make some small, but overall significant changes. If we can try and remember WHY we are using technology, HOW is it making us feel and whether it is serving its purpose we might be more selective in our approach.
Here are some constructive and actionable ideas to change your tech habits for a positive outcome:
Monitor your usage
- This is the first step in analysing your own habits.
Paradoxically, there are lots of apps and tools that can help you to reduce your time on screen! Google’s App Dashboard tells you exactly how much time you’ve spent on each app and you’ll receive updates on hourly usage across the week. Others include Siempo, Space App and Rescue Time.
2. Reduce notifications
Spend a bit of time customising your notification settings. Maybe you don’t need to see every What’s App message, maybe you can turn the sound off or just disconnect altogether.
3. Embrace new tech who are innovating in positive tools
For example, Wind Down feature turns your phone to grey scale when you set a time that you want to go to bed. Tech for Good is enhancing our digital lives with ever more user friendly options, health checks, AI and so on.
4. Be more disciplined – breaking habits
Without passing any judgement whatsoever (I am the worst offender!) try to make sure you don’t gorge on social media. Although in many ways it’s a great way to connect with friends and learn about new organisations, it can also be tiring and unsettling.
My worst habit is scrolling late into the night. It is well document that the bright blue light disrupts our body clock and supresses melatonin which controls our sleep-wake cycles. Even if you don’t want to answer your phone, psychologically you know it’s on the table next to you – you can hear it buzzing. Your mind is stimulated rather than relaxed.
Now I make a rule to put my phone on charge in another room by 10pm – doctors suggest you turn it off one hour before you go to sleep.
5. Scheduling – it really works
I work in digital marketing, which is an incredibly rewarding job. By harnessing digital tools, I can work from home, at all hours to fit around my family. But I have periods when I feel digitally saturated, especially when I am curating client accounts. It’s hard to think of creative content week after week, and also keep up with messages, engagement and goings on. This is where scheduling comes in.
I love Buffer (they have a fantastic podcast and regular email notices too), but you could explore Hootsuite or Sprout – there are many options out there. Every week I sit down and schedule one or two weeks worth of posts ahead. If I am focused, the ideas come quickly and it means I don’t need to worry about daily posting. It also means I can post ‘live’ or ‘behind the scenes’ posts as and when they happen to compliment the scheduled content.
6. Do not disturb
Did you know that you can turn your phone to Do Not Disturb mode? This blocks all notifications to prevent interruptions, which is especially important at work. Research shows that after an interruption, it takes roughly 25 minutes to retain your focus!
7. Organise your homescreen
Have a clear out of old apps that you haven’t used for a while. In my case the running app and my sons watch that broke two years ago. Only keep your important apps on the front page, other pages can be ordered into Utilities apps, Games, Design apps and so on.
8. Look away
Staring at screens (any screen) is bad for your eyesight. Get up, walk around, preferably outside, give your eyes a rest every hour and then come back refreshed. In order to do our best work, we need to be able to focus deeply.
9. Device free moments
If you are a business owner, why not suggest meetings without phones. No devices at lunchtime or on your coffee break. How many times have you been sitting in the staff room or in Costa coffee in silence while the whole room scrolls?
10. Face to face
Communication is always better in person. Emails are easier to misconstrue. Pick up the phone and have a conversation. Send less emails which will encourage less to come back to you.
Everyone is different and you may feel more comfortable with technology than the next person. The trick is finding the balance where digital tech enhances your life rather than takes over. Being more ‘present’ can only be a good thing.
I have completed the Digital Wellbeing Google Course.
I hope to have an online course in Digital Wellbeing coming soon. Subscribe to my newsletter and go on a waiting list to hear more.