Managing Technology Addiction for Well-being and Productivity
Following my last blog ‘How do you want to remember this time?‘ I was thrilled that my mum started to use the Insight Timer app I recommended. We’re now connected and are meditation accountability buddies across the globe. My Gen Z friends Kya and Bri have started to use it too which makes me really happy. I think the benefits of focused attention training through adolescence will be instrumental for managing potentially stressful periods such as exams.
This experience reminded me of the reason I first started blogging – if by sharing my learning one person benefits then it is worth it 🙂
Since then, one topic I’ve been asked about repeatedly through my work is what happens when we overload on technology and get addictive patterns of behavior?
With a passion for both technology and well-being this area really interests me.
I love a lot of the things technological advances have allowed, in particular the impact it has on me being able to stay connected easily to my family in Europe, the ease of following global thought leaders and the ability to work virtually. However, when an intense focus on technology becomes an addiction, what impact does this have on health and productivity?
I enjoyed speaking to Ali Cain from SMH’s Big Idea blog on this topic which you can read here: ‘Put down the phone: Checking digital devices goes from distraction to addiction’. In summary:
So why the issue? – Whilst most people I speak to are aware of our increasing resilience on technology (especially the mobile) I have discovered:
#1 Mobile usage continues to rise – Smart Insights shared in Jan 2017 that there are more phones than people in the world, with a 30% annual growth in active mobile users with Asia Pacific driving much of this growth.
#2 Anxiety is on the rise in relation to being detached from our digital devices – Nomophobia – an irrational fear of being without your mobile phone is now a recognised medical problem.
#3 Phubbing is growing at an alarming rate – a term used to describe us ignoring each other when we’re on our mobiles, particularly parents paying more attention to their phones than children. CSU are conducting research into this which I look forward to following.
What does this mean?
When we constantly repeat a behaviour, like checking our mobile phones, it forms into a habit and the brain actually adapts and carves new neural pathways supporting this behaviour. Every time we’re distracted we lose focus and our attention has to be re-established. This has a big impact on things like our presence, relationships, productivity and creativity.
For example, an executive in my network shared he used to be a mobile addict. The pattern was broken when on holiday with his wife – she got fed up with his addiction to the phone and locked it in the safe for the remainder of their stay. He said the first couple of days without it were like withdrawing from caffeine or alcohol. He now has much healthier technology habits, not checking his phone in the morning until he leaves the home and replacing morning emails with a meditation and gratitude ritual. He also doesn’t check his phone after 7pm.
So how can we combat this and manage ourselves better?
Like mentioned in the example above, unplugged time is wonderful to help better manage ourselves and relationships with those around us. A study by Harvard who followed a team at Boston Consulting found that no work emails for employees on evenings and weekends quite quickly led to lower stress levels, an increase in job satisfaction and no loss in productivity.
However for me, I’ve found it’s little things that can make a big difference. Here are a handful of tips I’ve found help me try to keep a health balcance of technological well-being:
#1 Utilise technology to support a meditation practice – As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve started using the Insight Timer app which have found fantastic – it tracks how many days you’ve meditated and you can interact with users around the world.
#2 Turn off all notifications and try to check your emails only twice a day – Or even less frequently and set an out of office letting your clients know this (Thanks for the tip Tim Ferriss and the 4 Hour Work Week).
#3 Put your phone out of sight when you’re focusing on an important task or are in a meeting – Research has shown even seeing it can cause a distraction, even before any notifications distract you.
#4 Filter and reduce the amount you are consuming digitally –Get rid of your digital clutter by utilizing an app like Unroll.me, a site that scans your entire email accounts and puts everything you’re subscribed to in a list. You can then easily scroll through and unsubscribe easily from whatever you don’t want. From those with data privacy concerns maybe avoid this.
#5 Increase your productivity- Use your commute wisely by downloading the Blinkist app which summarizes more than 2000 bestselling nonfiction titles across 19 categories. It then reads the key points to you in 15 minutes or less.
I’d love to hear how others are managing themselves within our technology obsessed world so we can support each other to live our best lives.