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3 simple steps to digital zen at work

All, De-stress, Life Nuggets, Our Experts

CLARE BARRY, LIFE + ME’S URBAN WELLBEING EXPERT + FOUNDER OF URBAN CURIOSITY, GIVES HER GUIDANCE ON HOW TO EMBRACE DIGITAL ZEN AT WORK…

This I know: work isn’t everything. Your health and loved ones are everything. Sadly, it took illness and bereavement for me to realise this. Here are three ways you can reclaim time for what really matters and enjoy more digital zen at work:

1. KEEP YOUR BEDROOM SACRED

Would you sleep with your boss? No, so why invite his or her thoughts and words into your most private space? The light emitted by the screen on your smart device can disrupt your circadian rhythm and hinder quality sleep while the content of messages, updates or emails can provoke anxiety. Do you plunge straight into your working day before throwing back the duvet cover? Doing so interrupts precious moments for reflection, creativity or stillness when you’re not even on the company clock.

Tonight, stop using your digital devices one hour before going to sleep and switch off your e-reader. Turn your smartphone off or leave it outside the bedroom, indulge in a book you can touch and don’t forget to set your analogue alarm clock. Tomorrow, allow yourself to begin your morning ritual without checking email, social media or apps. Notice how it makes you feel not to check immediately. How long do you last before you invite the digital world into your day?

2. REPLY WHEN IT SUITS YOU, NOT THE OTHER PERSON

Do you spend the first part of your working day trawling through emails? Do you fire off a reply as soon as email arrives and convince yourself you’re being productive? You’re being reactive. Email was designed to allow you to respond to the sender in your own time. If you are responding more to their needs and allowing their agendas to interrupt your flow, then stop. Identify the time of day when you’re most creative and productive. Guard those hours; switch off email notifications and schedule time(s) to check your email during your working hours. Tell colleagues, clients and relatives verbally and with an out of office message how to contact you if their query requires a more urgent response. Stick to your new approach and others will too.

When you’re in your inbox, think twice before sending any email at all. Can you batch up your comments in a single email and avoid many one-liners? Are you replying to look important to others on the distribution list or is your contribution truly required and valid?

3. DO ONE THING AT A TIME

Multi-tasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in our hyper-connected world. On average you are interrupted by an electronic alert every three to five minutes, the problem comes when it takes you up to 20 minutes to regain your momentum. Mono-tasking is more efficient and less stressful.

Never walk and text (wext). If you need to respond to a text or email, then stop and stand still to focus on it. Simultaneous walking and texting impairs your cognitive ability and the task takes longer, as well as making you move like you’re drunk!

Switch your smartphone to airplane mode for a block of time and notice the difference between the quantity and quality of work you produce compared to when your phone is switched on. Aim to reduce the number of browsers you have open in a single session. Ideally use the page you require and avoid switching.

Notice whether these actions hinder or enhance your sense of calm and productivity? How do they affect your interactions with others? Is this positive and if so, how can you get more of it?

These days I write about creativity and human connection in a digital world and I explore how we can thrive in a city addicted to speed on the Urban Curiosity podcast. I love my work now I know where it stops and my life begins. Want to dig deeper? Check out these links: Blue Light Has a Dark Side, Beware of Reactionary Workflow and The Cost of Continuously Checking Email.

Founded in 2014 by Londoner, author and speaker Clare Barry after experiencing burnout, Urban Curiosity is a creativity and wellness company that helps busy people slow down and see things differently. Clare passionately believes our time, energy and attention are our most precious resources. The World Health Organisation predicts more than 70 per cent of us will live in an urban place by 2050 and her mission is to show you that it is possible to live in a hectic, cacophonous city and still find moments of quiet, calm and heartfelt human connection every day.

Clare Barry is Life + Me’s Urban Wellbeing Expert. If you have a question for Clare for our Q+As, or if you have a suggested topic you would like Clare to cover, email [email protected]

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