Three tips to improve your digital wellbeing

Bethany McNally
Friday 4 September 2020

Technology has played a vital role in our lives during this year. In the midst of virtual events and video calls, take the opportunity to pick out any bad habits we’ve developed along the way, take back control, and improve our digital wellbeing.

1. Give yourself a break if your body needs one

After a long day working or studying, you might experience pain in your hands, wrists and eyes.

Spending a lot of time using a computer, keyboard and mouse is a common cause of repetitive strain injury (RSI). If you change work station, check the Display Screen Equipment Training and Risk Assessment Programme as part of the University’s Health and Safety training.

Mix up your movements

  • If you’re taking notes alone, use Dictate in Microsoft applications to use your voice rather than the keyboard
  • If you’re reading your emails first thing, get the Outlook app, take a walk and go through them. As you go, you can flag them if you need to follow up back at the computer.
  • Get the Teams app on your phone to answer Chat messages and read notifications whilst standing or walking.

Ensure your work station is properly set up

At the office, we’d get regular breaks to go to the printer or chat to the person next to us. However, at home, these opportunities aren’t as readily available and we can find ourselves at the computer for longer periods of time. Make sure your workstation is in line with the following guidance:

  • Position your monitor to avoid reflection from room lighting and sunlight.
  • Keep your mouse close to you so you’re not awkwardly bending to reach it.
  • Have the keyboard straight in front of you.
  • Adjust your chair height so you wrists are flat on your desk, with a 90 degree bend at your elbow. If you’re using a dining chair that’s too low, grab a cushion.
  • Rest your feet on the floor – don’t cross them!
  • Support your back by adjusting your chair or using a cushion or rolled up towel behind your lower back. The idea behind this is to remind you to sit up straight rather than act as a back support (advice from William Davis, rehabilitation consultant).

There are articles available on the NHS website which may be useful:

2. Minimise interruptions

Did you know that taking a ten-second break to check an email or Facebook notification usually does more harm than good?

During our sessions, we reference a study conducted by Gloria Mark, Professor of Informatics at the University of California. Mark found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after a digital distraction.

The study found that if you take two people and ask them to complete a task, but person A checks their phone a few times, the following would happen:

  • they’d both finish the task at the same time
  • the quality of both completed tasks would be the same
  • person A (who experienced interruptions) was more stressed than person B

So although the work-related output was the same, the interruptions had an impact on person A’s wellbeing.

Create blocks of time to focus

Here are three suggestions to plan out your tasks, minimise interruptions and reduce stress:

  1. Set aside 20-30 minutes to focus on one task uninterrupted. You can set yourself to ‘Do Not Disturb’ in Teams or sign out altogether during this time.
  2. If you’re using Windows 10, you can use Focus Assist which mutes notifications. You can choose an ‘alarms only’ option and set an alarm in the Windows ‘Alarms and Clocks‘ app.
  3. Online tools like tomato-timer.com can help you stick to your allocated time using the pomodoro technique. To find out more about this, you can attend the ‘Time Management’ course run by Organisational and Staff Development Services (OSDS).

3. Reflect on your technology use

FOMO (fear of missing out) has led to an excessive use of technology in the last decade.

Are you guilty of any of the following?

  • Taking your phone to bed with you
  • Immediately picking up your phone when it vibrates
  • Checking your phone during cinema adverts or mealtimes
  • Getting stressed when your phone battery’s running low
  • Saying ‘I’ll Google it’ to help a conversation reach a conclusion faster
  • Taking a photo and predicting the success on social media once you post it

To help you think about how you use technology, try apps like Google’s Digital Wellbeing and Apple’s Screen Time.

Make use of ‘Quiet hours’

If you have the Teams mobile app, turn on quiet hours so you don’t receive notifications after you’ve signed off for the day.

Use technology in a positive or social way

Some people argue that we should switch off altogether. However, there’s a difference between using your phone throughout dinner with friends and using it to FaceTime your parents.

It’s important to reflect on how you’re using technology, recognise bad habits and focus on positive changes that can improve our wellbeing.

Here are a few examples of using technology positively outwith work and study:

  • Organise a movie night with friends
  • Connect with a distant friend or family member by video call
  • Look up a new recipe and take the time to make it
  • Discover new music
  • Use online tutorials to learn a new skill – knitting, crochet, an instrument

Make an effort to disconnect

If you’re struggling to think of ways to cut out technology altogether for an hour or two, here are a few ideas:

  • Go for a walk
  • Exercise – watch Ali or Ailsa’s exercise classes (from the Department of Sport and Exercise) they made available last week
  • Make something – a painting, drawing, short story, poem
  • Clean something, it doesn’t have to be big; organise a drawer or do a load of laundry
  • Board games
  • Lawn games

Check the University’s Covid Code to make sure your activities comply with the current guidance.

 

 

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