With the newest technological advancements consuming our daily lives, it is more important than ever to ensure balance between the efficiency these technologies provide and their impact on your physical and psychological wellbeing.
Today, technology is used to communicate across countries and to move outside traditional offices. It brings many obvious benefits, such as the ability to work from afar, to get the necessary tools with a few clicks, to ensure communication between team members. At the same time, it brings also something more sinister: the need, and sometimes expectation, to be constantly connected.
Digital technologies can be addictive. A notification you receive might be a long-awaited message from a friend, an e-mail providing new work opportunities, or it could be an advert from an online shop you’ve visited once. The element of surprise together with the way social networks are built — constant rewards, quantified personal successes (how many likes did my photo get?), persistent need to refresh the feed — means that it is more and more difficult to put down your phone. And, because technology is designed to stimulate the reward centers of our brain, it is not enough to will yourself not to touch your phone. You need to decide on specific steps, and here are some that might help.
Analyze and change your usage patterns
One of the first steps to change your mobile phone usage patterns is understanding how much time you actually spend on your phone. It might be even more important to know how often you do it — researchers have found that 70% of phone sessions are less than two minutes long, and people check their phones on average 58 times a day. Even more importantly, 50% of screen time sessions start within minutes of the previous session. This means that checking your phone once is enough to start a chain reaction which keeps your attention for an extended period of time — even when you are not actively looking at your phone.
This reduces your efficiency and productivity, influences your focus and work quality, and also impacts your psychological well-being. So, it is extremely important to understand your mobile usage patterns and their peculiarities before you can take concrete steps to improve them. The easiest way to understand your usage is to use one of the many productivity apps.
Encourage healthier technology use
For most employees and people in general, it is no longer possible to live without connection to outside world, whether in the form of a phone or a computer. Healthier use of technology does not mean giving it up absolutely, but there are some small — and slightly bigger — steps you can take to improve your life.
First of all, it is great if your employer is conscious of how constant availability influences your work. It is much easier to give up your phone in a supporting, productive environment, and there are many ways how employers can make your life easier (and more fruitful!), from building better offices to introducing new office policies. However, what can you as an individual person do?
- Turn off notifications for all social media. It will allow you to focus on your work or leisure time, and, honestly, you won’t miss that much. You can catch up in a designated time period, but might find out that social media is not so interesting after all. To make it more valuable, unfollow anyone you don’t know.
- Unsubscribe from all unwanted e-mails. At least in the EU, unsubscribing from spam, unwanted newsletters and promotions is made as easy as possible. Every time you receive an e-mail you don’t need and never answer, click on the unsubscribe button hidden at the end of the e-mail. This will reduce the number of notifications you receive.
- Don’t answer work e-mails after hours. Don’t even read them. This is one of the most important ways of reducing email-induced stress. While it definitely won’t work for every profession, you have to decide whether the world will really burn if you don’t read your emails outside of work. When you feel ready, you might even switch off email notifications in general, and check it only on your work computer.
- Decide on a specific time period when you won’t use your phone — both at work and in your free time. You might have a 2-hour period when you have the most intense, stimulating work, and a 2-hour period before you go to sleep. At work, it will allow you to pay 100% to the task at hand. At home, it will ensure better sleep and more time with your family. If you can, don’t look at your phone until you go to sleep, and charge it outside of your bedroom.
Each on their own, these are easy steps, but together they can improve your life considerably. When you are ready for more dramatic change, you’ll be motivated enough to search it yourself — outside of your technology-free hours, of course.
Read more about the psychology behind your phone: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/behavioral-economics/negative-impact-technology-business.html
Read more about statistics of your phone use: https://blog.rescuetime.com/screen-time-stats-2018/
Notifications received while writing this article: 47
Times I checked the phone while writing this article: after a notification — 12; ‘maybe there is something there, I have to check it automatically’ — 9.