Go #DigitalColdTurkey for a happier life

Shun the always-on culture and switch off from the digital world for a while - it just might make you happier and more productive.

If like me you’ve noticed yourself drinking without thinking and did #DryJanuary, I challenge you to try #DigitalColdTurkey.

Clicking without thinking is our digital crack. Always-on culture has massive benefits, but being ‘at work’ any time, any place, anywhere just means stress. And far less effective work.

Tune in

Take back control. Become cyber self-aware. Confess the fact you’ve surrendered control to the digit, like Radioville director Tim Craig: "Many’s the time I’ll be sitting at the PC and suddenly find myself on Facebook, with no recollection of how I got there. For that reason a month or so before Christmas I removed Facebook and Twitter from my bookmarks/favourites bar so it would be a more conscious decision to check in. It seems to have worked, because I definitely spend far less time online now."

If you notice you’re still drawn to the digit as to the drink, take a digital holiday. Unplug completely for 24 hours. A student who did this said: "With full knowledge my phone was off and tucked away, I reached into my pocket at least 30 times to pull out a vibrating phone that wasn’t there."

Turn off

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, says: "I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information… is in fact affecting cognition. It is affecting deeper thinking. I still believe that sitting down and reading a book is the best way to really learn something. And I worry that we’re losing that…"

So maybe you’ll be more creative if you switch off? Oxford professor of synaptic pharmacology professor Susan Greenfield says: "New digital technologies are rewiring the brain’s frontal cortex – the area of the brain responsible for cognitive analysis and abstract thought."

And parents, how does our screen behaviour influence the next generation of digital crack addicts?

Drop  out

Drop email as your driver. Never mistake your inbox for your ‘to do’ list, or you’ll give away control of your day.

Recently – and at my wits’ end dealing with call centres – I emailed the CEO of a Very Large Corporation, previously a client. At 11pm I hit ‘send’ and stormed off to bed.

Next day I was astonished to discover this VIP had replied to my email within 15 minutes. Why would he be checking email that late at night?

I was delighted to get such a quick response and the promise of action. But… I felt guilty. I’d stolen some of his private life. So if I was his executive coach (I am available, John) I’d say don’t let clients like me set your agenda. You set your agenda.

Start work with your ‘to do’ list. Turn off email alerts, pings, flags. Check email only twice a day, and never for the first hour at work.

Then you can be fully at work at work, and at home at home (even if you work from home).

Rhian Roberts, digital editor at Radio 4, says: "I started off the year by turning off the little email notification box. That small thing has made me very happy."

Very happy people work better. Now turn that sodding thing off and do something useful...

Adrian Reith is executive coach to media and creative industries. Visit AdrianReith.com

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