Digital Mindfulness: switching off from tech while WFH

April 8, 2020
Lily-Rae Hewitt Jasilek

There has been a lot written over the last few years about the downsides of our modern technological world. The constant on-call nature of modern work means we struggle to de-stress; the unattainable standards that social media perpetuates can easily drain our self-esteem; addiction to screen time is disrupting our sleep cycles. Smartphones have a lot to answer for!

Now, while the thought of unplugging completely and living as a #TechHermit might sound appealing sometimes, the reality is that for those of us who have to work, it is an unrealistic goal. Especially in our current climate, with the outbreak of COVID-19 and organisations instructing office-based employees to work remotely, as a way to minimise the risk of infection and spreading of the virus.

However, what we can do is practice Digital Mindfulness. We can aim to ensure that technology aids our lives rather than consuming it by observing how we interact with it and attempting to alter negative habits we have developed.

So, how can you build a healthy relationship with your digital devices and ensure you can switch off when you need to? There’s no one-size fits all answer when it comes to Digital Mindfulness. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. However, by gaining more control over your digital habits you’ll be able to find the right balance for you.

Digital Mindfulness: the groundwork

The first step towards digital wellbeing is understanding how and when you’re using technology in the first place. The answer can be an uncomfortable revelation, we typically underestimate our tech usage quite significantly!

How to become more aware of your own online habit
  • Ask yourself questions: how do you spend time online, how does it make you feel? Does it add value to your life? What would you like to change?
  • Ask a friend what they think of your tech habits – it’s frequently easier to identify problematic behaviour from the outside.

Set a goal for your tech usage
  • What role would I like technology to have in my life?
  • Are there certain parts of my life that I want to try and keep device-free?
  • Are there certain things about technology that frustrate me?

The benefits of monitoring your usage
  • Like we mentioned above, we typically underestimate our tech usage. Many of our actions over the course of a day are habitual and unconscious. ‘Flick the phone open to check the time… aaaand I’m on Instagram’. Sound familiar? You aren’t alone!
  • There are many apps available to monitor this. Both Android and Apple systems can break down your day’s activity by app. There are also third-party apps like Siempo, Space App & RescueTime. They’ll keep track of everything you use over the course of the day to give you an overview of what you get up to.

From here you can go about breaking any actions you feel have drifted into bad habit territory.

Digital Mindfulness: tools, solutions, tips & tricks

First up, consider changing up your push notifications so you are hassled less by apps throughout the day. Do you really need to hear from YouTube every time a new video is posted? Most apps have very granular options that will allow anything from a blanket ban through to extensive customisation for your specific needs. This is a simple, lightweight first step in detoxing from constant interaction with the digital world and will allow you to focus on the here and now (whether that be work, friends or family) with fewer distractions.

Similarly, think about how you set up your phone’s display. Try moving your habitual or addictive apps off the home screen so they don’t suck you in when you open your phone for something else.

Detox at work

When it comes to work, only deal with emails at one or two points in the day. Don’t respond as they pop up. It’s a growing realisation that multitasking isn’t a positive skill, it ruins your workflow and concentration. If you aren’t constantly having your attention dragged away to your inbox you can focus on the more important aspects of your job. Similarly, don’t send emails unless you have to – try communicating face to face where possible.

Now, the potentially controversial stuff. Switching off from work outside of office hours. If possible, have two phones: one for work, one for home. Turn each one off as you leave its world. If that’s beyond your budget, at least leave your work email off your phone. At work you’ll be able to focus entirely on your tasks for the day while at home you’ll be more engaged with those around you if you aren’t constantly checking slack or emails (Remember what we said earlier? Once a day!)

We admit, your boss might not like it. The pressure for us to be constantly connected and available is certainly there for many. We feel, however, that emails going unanswered outside of the workday is a small price to pay for better rested, less stressed, more focused employees.

On the subject of ‘better rested’ – what about night time? It’s all well and good preventing distraction when you have stuff to be doing. But what can you do to break the midnight scrolling habit?

A better night’s sleep

The first action we recommend making use of that Do Not Disturb function. This will completely prevent intrusion from the digital world when you should be asleep. Blocking any and all notifications will prevent the problematic flow of reading a new message, ‘briefly’ checking social media afterwards then realising it’s somehow hit 2am. You can still filter the ban to allow certain things through, if you’re worried about family emergencies or other urgent contact for instance, but it goes without saying: don’t use it for trivial things. That’d kind of defeat the purpose!

Want to take it up a notch? How about starting and ending your day completely cut off from your mobile (shock horror!). Simply charging your phone somewhere other than your bedroom will make it impossible for you to open it out of reflex and bust all the hard work you’ve put in to the detox through the day. Well, unless you’re a sleepwalker maybe?

Best of luck!

No matter which of our suggestions you decide to go for just remember, changing habits and behaviours takes time. The benefits of striking the right balance with your digital life, however, are well worth the effort.

From all of us here at Upskill: we wish you the best of luck in your journey!

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