“I’m not addicted to technology but …”
By David Tomkinson, Director, andpartnership
To understand our wellbeing, we must take a comprehensive approach and consider all the elements that make up our everyday lives. Our Wheel of Wellbeing Energies© focuses on four key elements that make up someone’s mental health and wellbeing, and how we can use these to improve our happiness.
We have already discussed Physical Energy and how to increase your physical wellbeing, and today we will be focusing on Intellectual Energy. This section of the wheel is broken down into Time/Diary Management, Stress/Pressure of the Job and Work Mindset.
One thing that I’ve found can contribute negatively to all three of these things is technology. Technology is one of the main reasons for being unable to switch off from work, leading to stress and possible burnout. How are you supposed to manage your time effectively when you have a constant stream of messages coming through? How can you relieve the pressures of your job when your mobile phone acts as a constant reminder of your to-do list?
We all need a strong work/life balance in order to improve our mental health and wellbeing. I found that I was struggling with this due to constantly having my phone in my hand so, as a result, my wife and I decided to experiment with a technology ‘blackout’ whilst on a recent holiday.
My wife often complains that I’m ‘always pinging’- referring to the numerous alerts I get for emails, texts, and a plethora of other things I never consciously asked to be kept informed about. ‘Well you’re always on your iPad’ I defensively retort, referring to the fact that she reaches for her iPad before me in the morning, and constantly asks me what is happening in TV programmes as she is looking down at her iPad whilst watching.
This was what started our experiment on holiday as we were reminiscing about holidays gone by, when we never even thought about work for two weeks and we focused on each other and the family. We decided to see if we could do without technology for a day, how hard it would be and what the benefits were.
The first discussion involved lots of ‘I would but…’ and ‘I still need to…’ as we began to realise just how the phone companies have got us hooked by selling us the convenience of having one device that does everything. This quickly made me realise how I don’t only rely on technology for work, but also for my social life. My camera, timepiece, alarm clock, music player, fitness measurer and much more would be compromised without a mobile phone. However, when using airplane mode and disabling wifi, most of these applications still worked so my wife and I both took a deep breath and disconnected from our work and social lives.
Back in our room I noticed how I suddenly wanted to check what was happening, but I couldn’t! What if I missed something? What if work needed me? As I was waiting for Gill to get ready I would normally have been checking emails and social media. This time, I got a book out and started reading, something I haven’t done for some time. I went down for breakfast before her and sat on my own for 15 minutes, time that would have been fertile territory for a quick surf. Instead, I read the newspaper, but I couldn’t focus on it.
Over breakfast, the tech issues started to emerge. Where to eat? Let’s Google it- oh, we can’t. What’s the weather going to be like? We’ll just have to set off and take our chances. What shops are there in St Ives? We’ll have to ask at the hotel desk.
We set off and I noticed I was feeling particularly grumpy from not being able to plan our day. I was definitely not suffering from withdrawal symptoms, I told myself – I can’t be, as I’m not addicted. The first shop Gill went into I discovered another use for technology – boredom. I would always have a quick look at my phone while she went into shops, just in case there was a message from work. Now I was forced into the choice of waiting on the pavement or going into the shop. I chose the latter and stood like a spare part, looking at things I wasn’t interested in, desperately longing for a quick fix. All of this didn’t help my mood.
We then went for a coffee to cheer ourselves up and I found myself ordering a black coffee which I never have at this time of the day – surely I wasn’t seeking a caffeine fix as a substitute? Bizarrely as the caffeine reached my veins my mood started to improve – this was all very troubling for someone who thought himself to be in control!
Back at the hotel I read the paper again, this time looking at the words not just the headlines. It felt good not to be skimming over things and switching attention from one thing to another. The grumpiness had gone, and in its place was an awareness of my surroundings that I haven’t had for a long time – the waves breaking on the shore, the gulls screeching overhead, and so much more.
In the restaurant that evening, checking of devices at regular intervals was replaced by in depth conversation – apparently I have four grandchildren!! During toilet breaks, instead of checking my phone I engaged in conversation with the waitress and found out some interesting local knowledge. A good walk home and the day was almost over. We agreed as the final part of the experiment to switch our devices back on briefly to see if we had missed anything important. Not surprisingly, the world was still turning and there was nothing of any importance. I found myself resenting the intrusion into this perfect day and turned it back off again quickly.
What did I learn?
All of this has led me to reflect on my addiction (there, I’ve said it) and following my use of the Wheel of Wellbeing Energies© I have realised a number of things:
- I can’t be bored anymore, I have to be doing something, usually with technology
- It is a convenient way of distracting me from other things
- In a relationship you don’t focus on the other person as much when you are both using technology
- I have come to rely on my phone for so much information, and it is so accessible, so quickly that it is stopping me using my brain to solve problems
- The quantity of data available means I only half read things and switch my attention between things at an alarming rate
- Technology is affecting my overall feeling of wellness and wellbeing
I want to take back control instead of letting it control me. My hope is that I am able to achieve that balance of using technology for those things which enhance and enrich my life, whilst still being able to switch off from work and enjoy my social life.
This has been a fascinating experiment and as a result, I fully intend to make some changes to my life. I will look forward to the day that I say ‘My name’s Dave and I haven’t surfed the internet for 100 days’!
Contact Dave to find out about how the Wheel of Wellbeing Energies or any of our other products could support your organisational and leadership development needs.
T: 01623 883910
M: 07710 003029
Categorised in: Leadership Development
This post was written by David Tomkinson