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Learn to unplug- A mindful approach

Technology provides many benefits for work, such as ease of communication. Unfortunately, intensive use of devices such as smartphones and tablets can lead to "techno-stress", due to information overload and frequent interruptions to work due to checking and sending emails.

Technology devices are also an important part of our leisure time. According to Ofcom's 2014 study, UK adults spend more time engaged in media and communication activities (e.g. using smartphones or watching TV) than sleeping. The same study found 99% of adults media multitask, such as texting whilst watching TV, at any point across the week. Does that sound familiar?

So, what can you do if you want to spend less time connected to your devices? Going cold turkey is not an option, as laptops and smartphones are part of modern life. However, a mindful approach may help you learn to disconnect when you need to, and help you manage your use of your devices. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment. By being mindful, you start to notice your actions and habits. So, start by asking yourself some questions about how and when you use technology.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Do you constantly check emails throughout the day when you are trying to complete a project or a piece of work?

  • Have you fallen into the habit of automatically turning on the TV, whilst surfing the internet and checking your phone when you are at home?

  • Are you regularly checking your phone for messages from friends?

  • Do you use your mobile phone as your alarm clock, and check your emails and messages as soon as you wake up?

You may have noticed that some of these activities, may be adding to your stress levels because you are not working efficiently, and you may not be enjoying your leisure time due to your distracted use of technology. However, now you have taken stock of how and when you use technology, you need to develop some strategies.

  • To avoid interruptions whilst working, disable the alerts on incoming texts (e.g. turn off sound alert on your smartphone) and close the email programme.

  • Check and respond to emails at specific times during the day.

  • Instead of media multitasking, try focusing on one activity.

  • Call a friend and have an engaged conversation, rather than constantly checking for and replying to text messages from them.

  • Stop using your phone as an alarm clock. Buy an alarm clock, wake up and ease into your day without checking your phone as soon as your eyes open. Try meditating for the first 5 minutes of your day.

By paying attention to your habits and turning off your autopilot, you can become more mindful in your use of your technology.

Yvette Hoskings-James-Work & Wellness

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