When information on everything – from the political situation in Ukraine to what to cook for dinner – is available from a device in our pockets, it’s not surprising that our ability to focus on the task in hand is diminishing. The time we spend on our smartphones isn’t just slowing down our output, it’s affecting our mental wellbeing, and impinging on our work-life balance by blurring the line between work and pleasure.
Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University and New York Times bestselling author, will be joining us at Conscious Work via video link, discussing the intersection between digital technology and culture. Our mission at Conscious Work is to reshape the way we work: facilitating happier, healthier and more productive workplaces. Cal’s recent bestselling book, Digital Minimalism, explores how our relationship to technology can be directed in a way that doesn’t impinge on our productivity – allowing for inspiration rather than procrastination, connection rather than distraction. Drawing on Cal’s work, we’ve put together some tips on how to adopt digital minimalism into your life and work.
How to adopt a digital minimalist approach:
Consume consciously As Cal’s research has proven, establishing a more productive and less harmful relationship with technology isn’t about disengaging altogether, but about directing the way we engage. If – like many of us – your work requires a degree of engagement with social media, take time to streamline the way you consume. Allocate time in the day for social media rather than dipping in and out, and make sure that your engagement is productive and relevant.
Analog alternatives As Cal explains, “if you simply resolve to quit social media, and end up sitting on your coach, bored, white knuckling the urge to check Twitter, you’re unlikely to experience lasting change”. Cal encourages us to actively take up new activities which don’t call for technology: read more, walk regularly, take up a new creative hobby, connect with friends. Cal outlines his suggestions for analog alternatives in his Analog January Challenge, which he’s created in order to streamline the process of adopting digital minimalism.
Dumb down your smartphone Cal recognises that there’s a reason why turning to our smartphone is so appealing, so suggests measures which limit our phone’s allure. While this may be impossible for those of us who need frequent access to different apps for our work, Cal encourages those of us who can to limit phone function to calls, texts, maps and audio.
There’s an app for that Noticing the negative impact that apps can have on productivity, app developers have designed apps which limit phone use. Forest App allows users to plant virtual trees if they focus on their work (rather than their phone) for thirty minutes, and Pocket provides a platform for saving articles, pictures and videos for viewing offline later, rather than when you should be focusing on the task in hand. If you need to resort to more drastic measures, download an internet blocking app such as Freedom, WriteRoom or SelfControl, which allows users to set customised limits on certain websites.
On March 27th, Cal will be joining a line-up of other experts giving practical, informed advice on how we can reshape the way we work. Limited tickets for Conscious Work are still available. Book here.