How ‘disconnectivity’ helps your productivity

By Phill Nosworthy|20 February 2020
Phill Nosworthy

Without acknowledging the potential downsides of always being switched on and plugged in, we risk comprising our mental and physical health, along with weak and chaotic real world connections, writes Phill Nosworthy.

In an ever-evolving and fast-paced world, our ability to connect with ourselves and others in a meaningful way, can be challenging. At the core, the challenge is our own relationship with technology. No one would deny that our favourite gadgets and devices enable us become more efficient, more connected, but without acknowledging the potential downsides of always being switched on and plugged in, we risk comprising our mental and physical health, along with weak and chaotic real world connections.

So, how do you disconnect from your work and your devices:

Too much of a good thing can be bad!

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Phones are incredible and versatile tools, they allow you to connect with the world in meaningful and creative ways, but the constant pings and dings are impacting you physically, mentally and socially. And not necessarily in a good way.

The endless notifications and alerts on our phones keep us in a state of high alert. Constantly being in that state wears our immune system down and leads to degenerative diseases over time. What’s more (and you know this already don’t you?), the blue light on all your device screens disrupt our sleep cycles and leave us with less emotional control, slower response times and more sickness.

All that is combined with the reality that social media leads us to compare ourselves and participate in negative self-evaluating. They allow us to keep up with friends and peer into the lives of famous folk we don’t know but all that additional personal PR and picture-perfect photo opportunities can leave us feeling unsure about our own decisions and lives through unfair comparisons.

My tip: Create a technology-free space.

Burn the midnight oil at work and then switch off, put boundaries in place for use of devices at home. There is a flight mode for phones on planes, I’d encourage you to practice “home mode” for when you walk through the door in the evenings. This will get you away from the office expectations of the evening, and the social responsibility of your feeds. Out of sight and out of mind is a real thing – so consider putting your phone in a box or a drawer, allowing it to be out of view.

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Being ‘constantly on’ is affecting how our brains work, and preventing you from reaching your full potential

The internet is fueled by, and overflowing with, short-form content that is changing our ability to concentrate for long periods of time. I’ve seen this first-hand as a speaker and facilitator in audiences all around the world; even seasoned executives are finding it hard to stay engaged for as long as they used to!

Short-form content and bite-size news pieces are the digital equivalent of sugary, salty, fatty foods. Just like real-world junk food, they might be fun and taste delicious in the moment, but if we make them our staple diet, we’ll be setting ourselves up for some serious challenges in the future.

What we are risking here is losing our ability for what researchers call “deep work”, which is the ability to lock into hard and meaningful challenges for extended periods of time. Without deep work, we’ll never find out what we are truly capable of – because as anyone who has achieved anything significant knows – you can’t achieve greatness with 15 second limits on your attention.

My tip: Set aside time in your life for doing nothing.

Take control of your schedule in advance and make room for “constructive nothing” time without guilt or remorse. Einstein scheduled two hours into his day for doing nothing but thinking and daydreaming. It might seem indulgent, but it was during these moments of planned boredom that he dreamed up equations and insights that changed the world. If you’re on 100 per cent all the time, you will run out of fuel, so even though it might not be two hours for you (!) deliberately scheduling down time with nothing on the agenda gives you the ability to do deeper work and ensure your brain is better rested and more creative.

Time is non-renewable

We are so obsessed with the tools of our own demise; we’ve created technology but it’s a massive distractor in our lives. Giving time to one thing, naturally means not giving time to another. So, when it comes to the decisions we make about what to prioritise, we must choose what is most meaningful. I don’t anticipate getting to my final moments in life and regretting not spending more time on Facebook. It will be real life and the people around us that will be remembered and savoured most; slow walks with people we love, taking time to read the classics, cultivating a garden, etc.

My tip: Do now, what can only be done now.

If we are working towards something that matters, we will live a more fulfilling life. Some things are “one-time only kind of things”; kids being young, sunsets and family dinners. Make these things a priority over feeds and inboxes that will still be there next time you go back to them. Trust me – they’ll still be there. Your kid’s impromptu dance after dinner won’t.

Don’t lose the ability to think for yourself in the echo chamber

Everyone’s experience of the net is different to anyone else’s. Over time, and through use, you have created for yourself your own custom internet that is different than your best friend’s or your mum’s. The algorithms that drive your feed have been designed to show you more of what you have already looked at, and more of what you want. And so, just by using the net, you are shaping your own unique echo chamber of your own thoughts and preferences.

This is a problem, because the last time I checked, in order to grow as a person you must expose yourself to NEW things and NEW ideas, not just pages and pages of more reasons for me to think what I have always and already thought.

My tip: Regularly take a break and escape into the real world.

Some simple rules that I use myself to make sure that I am not letting the net get the best of me are:

1. Educate yourself more than you entertain yourself. Your phone is either a tool or a trap – so use it to build your mind and your life with podcasts, documentaries and thoughtful subscriptions, not just multiple variations of Candy Crush.
2. Implement a “connection tax” before opening your favourite app or game. Every time you are filling time with a game or a social feed, first send two text messages to friends. Not only will it keep you connected to your friend and family, but it will ensure you aren’t prioritising those low-value activities over meaningful connections.

By adding just a few of these strategies to your everyday life, you’ll feel more present, connected and ready to tackle any challenge that comes your way.

Phill Nosworthy is an executive adviser and keynote speaker.

How ‘disconnectivity’ helps your productivity
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