How to make technology work for you

Did you know that when you open your social media feeds and glance at the tiny red alerts counting your comments and likes, a hit of dopamine is released? Dopamine is the feel-good transmitter – when it’s released, it gives you a small but powerful boost. It’s what makes social media like poker machines, because it’s addictive.

This is one of the many tidbits I picked up from Dr. Kristy Goodwin, who has released a book called Digital Health, Wellbeing + Productivity.

Here’s the thing: we all know what tech does and the effects it can have on us. What we struggle with is how to be mindful of our relationship with social media and technology, so we can create some clear boundaries that allow our gadgets and apps to work for us, not against us.

For instance, here’s a simple one. As human beings, we’re poor forecasters!

“We often grossly underestimate the amount of time a task will take to complete,” Dr Goodwin says.

“For example, we might quickly jump into our inbox to respond to one email, under the misguided belief that it will only take three minutes. However, before long we find ourselves responding to five other emails and that three minutes has blown out.”

A potential solution? Instead of dipping into your inbox to send one email, process your inbox in chunks throughout the day, so you can give it your attention and then switch off to other activities.

Here are some more of Dr. Goodwin tips and insights to help you optimise your digital habits:

  • Limit proximity: Keep your phone out of sight, out of mind. Drag apps that are your ‘digital weakness’ into a folder off the home screen.
  • Disable alerts & notifications: these hijack your attention and causes you to enter a stressed state.
  • Use online tools: Ironically, these can help you to track and modify your digital habits. Try Moment (iOS), Quality Time (android), Break Free. Look for Apple Screen Time tool.
  • Create your own tech rules & habits: We don’t need to be tethered to our devices 24/7. Set boundaries around when you can check your phone or email, stick to these and set up auto-responders to let other people know (it also encourages them to do the same).
  • Schedule physical activity: Being physically active can help counteract the impact of tech on our stress response. It helps us to release cortisol, which often builds up because of our tech habits.
  • Go greyscale on your mobile devices: That red icon that indicates you have 47 unread emails was strategically designed to be red, as it triggers that it is urgent and requires your attention; did you also ever wonder why it wasn’t a blue or green icon?

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