Is it time for a digital detox? How our use of technology affects productivity
What's the last thing you do before you go to bed? The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? If it's looking at your mobile device, then you're in too deep.
Laura Willis, founder of Shine Offline, is one of the growing number of people encouraging us to have a healthy relationship with our devices.
She gave a talk to staff at my workplace, Schroders investment management company, considering the impact 24/7 connectivity is having on our professional and personal lives.
What I learned from this is that you need to find your weak spot.
What makes your mood drop when you’re on your device? It could be checking social media and getting “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) or checking your inbox and feeling overloaded by the sheer quantity of what needs answering.
These are all things that you have control over and there are numerous tools now available to support you in minimising stress - from apps which turn off when you put them face down to ones which measure how much time you spend on social media. The power is in your hands.
It is also got me thinking about how our use of technology, being on our phones all the time, could be affecting our economy.
While we know our excessive use of tech is affecting us (whether we’re in denial or not), is it actually affecting the people around us and even further our economy?
Dan Nixon from the Bank of England’s content and strategy division has talked about just this - the connection between digital distraction and flailing productivity.
Our attention is now one of the most sought-after things and there is a constant influx of reminders, pop-ups and beeps to get our attention.
We’re drawn across an abundance of apps in seconds, flicking from one to another, reading snippets of content and jumping from one subject to another as we travel the endless and winding corridors of the web.
Is this hindering our productivity? To put it simply, yes. Research suggests we’re distracted nearly 50% of the time.
“This ‘crisis’ of attention is seen as one of the greatest problems of our time,” Dan Nixon has said.
What can we do about it?
Laura’s tips to “shine offline”
Laura told us how learning to meditate daily and changing how she used her phone turned her life around after she hit an all-time low and ended up on sleeping tablets.
She recognised she needed “space, pause and clarity” and her phone was causing a lot of her stress.
“I had a lightbulb moment on a train. I was commuting and realised I was the only weirdo not on their phone. I realised this was a universal thing. A lot of people are struggling to get balance and control in relation to their own devices,” she said.
Now she tries to help others deal with the “switched on culture”.
Tips I picked up from Laura’s talk:
1. You have to understand your relationship with your devices, where it stresses you out, overwhelms you, where it’s not enhancing your life. Bring consciousness to it. It’s about having a more balanced and mindful approach. It’s addictive, so it’s become a habit.
2. Get your phone out of your bedroom and get an alarm clock. Create a physical barrier and remove the temptation of checking it.
3. Turn off your notifications. Your apps are defaulted to notify you, but you can change that if it’s stressing you out.
4. Negative cultures are being created at work. Work in the evening if you want to, but save the email as draft and send it in the morning. Start thinking about the impact your behaviour has on the people around you. Lead by example.
5. If you’re addicted to email or Facebook, bring some kindness and compassion to yourself. She said: “I check my emails twice a day, because if I don’t I’ll be in it all day”.
For more tips from Shine Offline, visit their blog here: shineoffline.com/blog/