How do you achieve the right balance of digital downtime?

“That’s the problem with the digital age – everyone expects you to be on demand all the time.”

I didn’t say that, but I nodded in agreement as the passenger on the train sat next to me did.

It was one of those random conversations you sometimes have with strangers when you use public transport a lot. I was travelling to Bristol for work and the train had been delayed at Patchway. The passenger sat next to me was concerned that he’d miss his connecting train, so I tried to be helpful by using the Trainline app to find out when his next train would be.

Only I couldn’t, because I had no signal.

This lead to a conversation about the benefits of not being connected 24/7 and not being able to be reached – hence the quote above.

I think we can all relate to that feeling of being tethered to our devices and the amount of screen time we all spend is becoming an increasing concern. The tech giants are starting to take note too, with the advent of tools to help manage your screen time in iOS 12 and similar tools on android there’s a definite drive towards managing your digital downtime.

Making the most of technology whilst not letting it enslave you can be a tricky balance to get right.

I’m not sure I’ve got it right either. Like me, many of us now work with a degree of technology in the workplace, as well as it playing a fairly ubiquitous role in our personal lives too, from socialising with friends, shopping, gaming and so on. That balance of “getting it right” will also inevitably vary, depending on the person.

I want to share with you a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way that have helped me to get it right. Well, sort of …

First off, it’s not always about the technology, it can also be about behaviours. The way we all use technology can sometimes send out the wrong message about our availability. Take social media and something like Twitter for example, one of the key strengths of the platform is its brevity. It’s great that you can respond so quickly, but just because you can do something with technology doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. If you’re in the habit of blending platforms between your work and personal life (many of us do) and typically respond straight away to messages, can you really blame someone for contacting you whilst you’re on holiday about something work-related? No, you can’t. So consider what expectation you set if you are in the habit of responding instantly…

Which brings me on to my next point nicely – it’s perfectly okay not to be on call 24/7 and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. In fact, I regularly delete social networking apps from my phone when I need time out, to avoid what Parkin (amongst others) call the “dopamine hit” of a like, notification or comment on your profile, that lassoes you back to their site. It’s not as if you can’t reinstall the app whenever you want to return anyway.

It’s worth reviewing the digital information you receive on a daily basis and asking whether there are alternative ways of managing that flow too. Take emails for example, arguably still the default channel of communication for most businesses. You often hear people complain that they receive too many, but what do they actually do about it? This is where setting up email rules can be incredibly useful. Filtering emails from certain groups into folders that might be useful for reference, but don’t necessarily all need to be read can save you a heck of time and cut down on that distraction factor. Looking into the settings of how you receive information from other platforms is worthwhile too – as is hitting that ‘unsubscribe’ button from some services.

Finally, take time out in your day to take a walk outside – leaving your phone at home. Here’s a picture I took during my walk in Castle Park on the way to the office earlier – ironically, ahem, with my phone!


St Peter’s Church, Castle Park, Bristol

How do you get the balance right? Do you get it right? If you’ve got any tips to help manage your digital downtime let me know in the comments below 🙂

1 thought on “How do you achieve the right balance of digital downtime?

  1. Pingback: How much is too much? | Scott's eLearning Library

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