Do you feel controlled by your digital devices or held captive to every ring, ping, or buzz? Do you experience phoneliness, or loneliness, when you're with other people who are on their phones when they're with you? Or maybe you are the one making other people feel phonely? Digital Wellness is not just a buzzword.
May 5 is Digital Wellness Day. This was begun about five years ago by the Digital Wellness Collective and is designed to equip individuals and organizations to achieve well-being in the digital era. Last year, over 7 million people in 36 countries participated.
I'm not anti-tech, and neither are the people spearheading this movement. I promote healthy tech-life balance as a certified Digital Wellness Practitioner through the Digital Wellness Institute.
We are currently in the Attention Economy, where human attention is scarce and valuable. Ironically, companies want higher productivity, but they're inundating their employees with the very things that decrease it – over-communication through messaging platforms, email, virtual meetings, notifications, and more.
Switchtasking between tasks, content, or thoughts all day long leads to more mistakes (up to 40%!) and is tiring for our brains leading to decision fatigue. It leads to feeling “I worked all day but I don't know what I did.” The technoference, or everyday interruptions caused by our technology, has become a habit. We don't even realize that we're coming out of our focus zone to answer a text or are phone-snubbing or phubbing our partner or child when they're telling us about the latest movie they saw or what they heard from a friend.
Have you considered the irony of your interest level in how someone you don't even know responds to a post you wrote more than you are interested in the person standing right before you? That's a feedback loop. We get a little dopamine drip or temporary feeling of pleasure or desire each time we get that and like and want more. Those like buttons are like a drug.
To prepare for Digital Wellness Day, think about your relationship with technology. You can even take a test and get a free digital wellness check-up at digitalflourishing.com.
Here are some ideas and tactics I use personally and for RaderCo that you can too for Digital Wellness Day and beyond.
- Phone-free times/days – My husband and I have practiced Phone-Free Friday Nights for a few years when we put our phones in DND mode at 6pm every Friday.
- Device-Free Zones – We have an infrared sauna, and no devices are allowed. We can read books, meditate, journal, thinkitate or do nothing, but we can't take a phone inside.
- Working out – I have my phone set up so that as soon as I start a workout on my Apple watch, my phone goes into DND, so I don't hear texts or calls on my AirPods. My workout is my time.
- No phubbing in restaurants – Whoever I'm with in real life is more important than whoever is messaging me on a device. Studies show that having our phones face-down on a table is not enough. It should be out of our eyesight.
- Limit news – Social and news feeds are unlimited. There's no stopping point on the feeds; we get sucked in. Instead, I ask Alexa to “play the latest news.” For about 5-7 minutes, I get the latest for that day, and then it turns off.
- Unsubscribe – I unsubscribe immediately from shopping channels, and for anything I don't continue to receive value. You can do this with my Weekender Snapshot newsletter (although I hope you don't!)
- Unfollow people who give you heartburn – Why are you following people on social media feeds that don't make you feel good when you read their posts? It's called ‘social' media. Anything social should be leisurely and fun. Even if it's your Aunt Sandy, you can hide her, and she won't even know.
- Careful commenting – When you comment on other people's posts, ask yourself if you would say it to their face or stand up in front of a networking group or your entire company and say it. No? Then don't post it.
- Screen-free lunches – Take time as often as possible during your lunch break to step away from the computer, device-free. One study of 4000 people showed that people rated as happier were 275% more likely to eat their lunches screen-free! Scrolling social media at lunch decreased happiness scores.
- Email-free Fridays – At RaderCo, we don't process or send emails on Fridays. You can learn more about it here in our Email Manifesto.
- No-Task Fridays – We also don't assign new tasks on Fridays, so we aren't giving people the Friday Dump.
- Communication Charters – Implement Communication Charters to determine the proper channels, at the right times, with the right people and create clear guardrails on when those things should occur.
- Communication Matrix – Make it clear who needs to be addressed and who should be copied to avoid overloading inboxes. Ideally, have a project management system so you never have to update via email or messaging again!
As a health-powered productivity company, we coach individuals on better screen time habits. As consultants, we work with organizations to develop healthy tech-life guardrails, from implementing quarterly email and meeting-free days at a biotech company to creating the communication charter for a fast-growing government contractor. As speakers and trainers, we teach your team members how to put it all into practice.
Thirty percent of professionals feel they can never unplug for fear of missing an internal message, and remote workers feel telepressure even more. This leads to burnout, anxiety, and high rates of attrition.
My crystal ball says that companies prioritizing digital wellness will be sought after in the job market, especially by millennials and Gen Z. You could become one of the pioneering certified Digitally Well Workplaces by partnering with us!
As you think of your digital wellness as an individual or a company, consider your next steps and feel free to reach out.
Happy Digital Wellness Day. Let me know what you changed to promote a healthy tech-life balance.