Modern life is Rubbish as well as being the title of the 1991 Blur album, is a great way to frame how technology is playing havoc with our lives. It does have lots of great plus points, and not many of us would actually be without it, but it is having some serious impact on our wellbeing. According to Mind, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives. I suspect that number is on the rise, and I think the rapid pace of technologic advance is part of the problem.

The Facts

Just pop “impact of smartphones on health” into google and you’ll see many articles telling you the damage they are doing. Rather than regurgitating them all here, I’ll let you check that out yourself. Forgetting the physical issues around radio waves and radiation and the recent studies into the effects of smartphones on eyesight, the key issues as I see it are around personal device technology are:

  • People are addicted to their devices, which means they are constantly checking them for updates. One recent study found the average UK smartphone user checks their phone a whopping 85 times a day. Remember that’s the average, some users are much much higher. This will manifest itself like any other addiction, with real withdrawal symptoms and anxiety when not near our phones. It is also an incredible waste of time. What more meaningful things could we be doing with that time? That, in turn, is driving a wedge in relationships as people sit in silence on their phones rather than talk to each other.
  • We are using our devices way too late in the evening which is severely disrupting our sleep. We are either not getting to sleep or not getting the best quality sleep.
  • We just have too much information in our heads. By the time we have checked our emails, our 4-5 social media feeds, read a couple of interesting articles, watch a Youtube video, we have just crammed our head with too much information to process it all. The result is we are frazzled. We can’t make good decisions and don’t want to interact with the more important stuff.

All this leads to us being less effective, less decisive and more confused. This is not going to help us be a highly effective entrepreneur / executive / technician. It’s also not great for our personal relationships either.

How do we overcome it?

The simple answer is to use our devices less! But it’s not that simple, is it? So here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:

  1. Turn off your email pushing on your phone. That means change the setting so you only get new emails when you go in and check them. This will also save your battery but the main reason is to avoid the distraction of the notifications. Do the same on your computer – only check emails when you plan to, not when you should be doing important work.
  2. When not in work or have access to your emails on your computer, turn off emails on your phone altogether. I do this now. What I mean is only have emails on your phone when working and out of office.
  3. Turn off push notifications for other chat and social media – again you only then check in when you want to rather than being bombarded.
  4. Make sure you only get notifications once – if your iPad, your phone, your PC and your email client are all telling you someone has just liked your cat picture on facebook, that’s a waste of time.
  5. Restrict your time on social media – limit yourself to say 30 minutes a day for social media or any other technology distractions. There are apps and software solutions out there to help you do this.
  6. Take a social media holiday – I take a week or two off every now and then and this really helps. When I return, I am much more light touch.
  7. Have an App amnesty – If you’re a bit of an App junky, commit to removing one app you haven’t used every day. You’ll be amazed how easy it is. Try also committing to removing two old ones every time you install one new one.
  8. When sitting with the family, leave the phone in another room. If you are addicted, this will be hard, but it’s worth persevering. Use a stress ball or alike to replace the need to be doing something with your hands.
  9. Keep your phone out of the bedroom. Bedrooms are for sleep (well mostly!). The phone has no place in there. The blue light emitted from your phone blocks the brain’s receptors and hampers the release of  melatonin, the sleep hormone. Stop using your devices at least 2 hours before bed. Try reading a trashy book instead, that will actually help the melatonin production. An E-reader with digital ink is also a great alternative here.
  10. Meditate – ironically I use the app Headspace to meditate, which is a bit of a contradiction in terms. Meditation, in whatever form, will help the brain clear out all the information that is giving your brain fog. It should also help give some perspective on the use of your device.

Whatever your level of addiction / use of technology is, I hope this article has given you some simple takeaways to help you think modern life is not rubbish. Some tips that will allow you to control technology rather than let it control you. I hope it helps you be a more resourceful and effective version of yourself, a state I know you are capable of.

Ian Hacon, Founder of Yellow Brick Road and Co-founder of Bite the Cherry Enterprise Coaching