Swap scrolling for strolling – how to be more ‘digitally mindful’

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There’s no doubt about it, technology is consuming our lives with work often invading our downtime at home. Rachel Hutchinson, marketing manager at The Grand Brighton, believes there are certain things we can put in place to help employees switch off. She shares her top tips

Technological advancements have changed the way we communicate, work and entertain ourselves – connecting with friends and colleagues, watching television and even ordering shopping has never been easier and our appetite for digital technology shows no signs of slowing down.

With a reported four billion internet users worldwide (Smart Insight) and the average person predicted to spend more than five years of their life on social media, it’s becoming increasingly hard to disconnect and the line between work and personal life is often blurred – who isn’t guilty of checking their work emails at the weekend or having a quick scroll through Instagram during a conference break?

Technology was supposed to liberate us from much of the daily slog yet we are working longer hours than ever before. Shocking statistics printed by the Guardian state that in 2002, fewer than 10 per cent of employees checked their work email outside of office hours. Today, with the help of tablets and smartphones, it is 50 per cent, often before we even get out of bed.

Of course, the benefits of digital technology and social media far outweigh the negatives – sometimes we seem to get hung up on all the worst parts – but it’s important that it is managed effectively to ensure that these benefits aren’t outweighed by increased stress and anxiety levels, with the idea that you need to be ‘switched on’ constantly.

The term ‘digital detox’ is often bandied around, claiming that to ensure a good work-life balance you must abstain from using your phone or laptop for a certain number of hours or days in order to reset and refresh. This may work for some people but, for most, a ‘digital detox’ is similar to a fad diet – unrealistic and unsustainable. Digital technology is so deeply rooted in our everyday lives it’s almost impossible to abstain.

“Technology was supposed to liberate us from much of the daily slog yet we are working longer hours than ever before.”

A more realistic approach is ‘digital mindfulness’ whereby both individuals and businesses take responsibility and set parameters to actively dissuade the development of an ‘always on’ culture. Being more mindful of your digital usage means making small changes that allow you to stay productive and balanced in a wired world. Here’s our guide on ‘digital mindfulness’ and how you can reconnect at home or at work:

Turn off notifications
One of the greatest temptresses on phones, tablets and smart watches is the incessant notifications that pop up to tell you you’ve got a message, update or ‘like’ waiting for you. To remove the added lure to check Facebook, Tinder, Instagram, emails and news apps be sure to disable your notifications or at least control what you’re seeing and how often. Do you really need to know that your ex flat mate liked Lady Gaga’s tweet?

Find out how much you’re using your phone
If you really want to shock yourself into action, download an app so you can monitor your phone and internet usage. There are plenty of apps available for Android and iOS that will be able to tell you how much you’re using your phone, including the number of times you checked it in a day and how many hours you spent using it. If you need extra help, some of them even let you set a timer to block apps for a certain amount of time.

Set up phone-free periods everyday
Allocate phone-free activities throughout your day, pick occasions when your attention should be focused on someone or something else and just enjoy being in the moment. We are a stone’s throw from the seafront so encourage delegates to take advantage of their surroundings and turn their phone off during breaks to take a stroll along the shore or embrace Brighton life by heading to the Pier to enjoy the amusements, with a reminder to take lots of pennies.

Treat yourself to an alarm clock
If the first thing you do every morning is reach for your phone to turn off an alarm, check your notifications and read the news then you’re setting yourself up for a day hooked to the little screen. Leave your phone in another room overnight and employ a traditional alarm clock. This way you can start your day with some old fashioned, offline news that doesn’t require touching finger to screen.

Use recharge apps instead of checking social media
If you really feel the need to do something on your phone or computer, but don’t want to spend your time mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, then we’d recommend trying an app such as Headspace or Calm. They help you to relax and focus and are perfect if you have a short break in your day, especially if you’re at an intensive conference or workshop.

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    Jade Burke

    Jade Burke, Editor for PA Life

    All stories by: Jade Burke