Happily #disconnected

Remember when mobile phones were still a luxury, Facebook sounded like a photo album, a poke was something you did to annoy a sibling and twitter was just something you heard in the garden?

Life has evolved so quickly during the past decade that we’ve barely had time to sit back and think, “how is our new constantly connected lifestyle affecting our wellbeing?” We live in an era of “need-to-know-now” and, thanks to our beloved mobile phones, we can. In a study sponsored by SecurEnvoy in the US in 2012, researchers found that people were more stressed about losing their phones than their wallets.  When asked what people would fear losing most from their back pocket, over half said their phone and less than 1 in 5 cited ‘credit cards’.

Are you nomophobic?

We’re not only increasingly attached to our phones but we’re also increasingly gripped by nomophobia – fear of being out of mobile contact. Various studies have shown that we feel anxious and out of control when detached from our mobiles. Have we actually become addicted to being connected? How has this pressure to be connected 24/7 affected us in a business context where social media marketing has created new platforms to network, serve customers and promote our brands? To find out, I contacted Frances Booth, an expert in Digital Distraction and author of The Distraction Trap

“When you’re running your own business, time is a precious commodity. Yet hours can be wasted on digital distractions. If you’re constantly connected, you’re also constantly answering to other people’s demands. Instead of spending your time reacting to the demands of others, disconnect, and focus on the important tasks on your agenda.”

I used to be as guilty of this as anyone. I’d pride myself on keeping my inbox to fewer than 10 emails. As soon as one came in I’d try and clear it by responding immediately, only to find at the end of the day I’d been busy answering everything without achieving anything, my To Do list intact. But surely women are better at this than men because we can multitask I hear you say? Not according to Fran…

Many women feel frazzled and overwhelmed by having to keep up across so many digital platforms – on top of everything else in their normal day. But often, we’re putting pressure on ourselves to do this. No one else is. We often think we can multitask – as women in particular. But the truth is, we can’t. Productivity goes down by about 40% when we multitask. That’s why we feel like we’re getting nothing done …

So how do we sort ourselves out?

Having this sense of progress and achievement is a key condition for overall wellbeing. It helps us to feel in control and that our lives have purpose. But it’s important to remember that technology is just a tool. It’s how you choose to use it that determines whether it has a positive or negative affect on our wellbeing.  Here are some top tips from both Fran and I to choosing wisely: Have a digital sunrise – start the day by doing an hour’s work without logging onto any digital platforms.

  1. Listen – in a world where we have so many forces competing for our attention, listening is one of the best ways to improve relationships.
  2. Take control – only check your email at certain times of the day and ask people to call you if they need to speak to you urgently.
  3. Have a digital sundown – before going to bed every night, set aside an hour to be digital-free. Engaging in stimulating activity when you should be creating an environment to promote sleep can only be detrimental.

In this article, I’ve just scratched the surface of a fascinating emerging science behind digital distraction. If you’d like to find out more and explore the benefits of a digital detox, take a visit to Fran’s website where you’ll find lots more tips and information www.herearesomewords.com But right now, I’m powering off, grabbing a book and beginning my digital sundown… Goodnight everyone – I’m now happily #disconnected.

You can read more of Michelle’s great posts here!

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