THE BLOG
13/10/2013 18:30 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Regain Some Screen Sense: Kick the Toxic Technology Habit

Doggedly we react to dozen, even hundreds, of emails and texts every day, even if it disrupts our 'down time' and eats into sleep - depriving us of rest and adding to our stress, with all the potential for ill-health that this brings.

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Regain Some Screen Sense: Kick the Toxic Technology Habit

We're all familiar with the stereotypical image of the teenager imprisoned in their bedroom by the latest computer game, but we give less thought to the professional worker whose life is equally dominated by technology - not through choice but necessity.

For them, all too often the technology that is intended to help them achieve more in less time and with less effort, is increasingly becoming more of a hindrance than a help.

In the 'old days', by using core applications such as word processors, spreadsheets and databases, we were able to write more, calculate faster, and find information as and when it was needed.

But things have changed.

Now, the white space between mainstay software is continually being filled with 'technological dust' - programs, apps and mini apps - each holding out the prospect of some benefit, but actually delivering very little. Worse still, new technologies, just like viruses, spawn litters of offspring, giving us more and more tools that we could ever need or want to use, and clogging up every pore of our available time.

But, intoxicated by what's on offer, we go hunting for the 'sugar rush' of the new, the application that will change our lives, turning us from also-rans into heroes at work - searching for professional Nirvana in a piece of code.

Now we no longer have any 'screen sense' about where the boundaries of technology should be.

So, with apps buzzing like mosquitoes around our ears, all clamouring for attention, we dutifully and hopefully check out each and every must-have download. But there is a price to pay in terms of distraction, evaluation time, and if it gets that far, time spent learning its ways and overcoming incompatibilities between programs - before the disappointment kicks in that actually this program won't do what we thought it would.

Sadly, most of us are victims of technology addiction and the tyranny of time that it imposes on us through the expectation that with it, we have the power to deliver faster and faster. So every job becomes one that's needed yesterday as the timeline for completion is continually shortened. Caught on this spinning merry-go-round, we pass the pressure on to colleagues, the next in line and even family and friends.

The technology that was to meant to make us more productive, has now become the stick with which we are beaten.

And just like any junkie, once addicted we have to 'scratch the itch' - the unopened message, for instance, that teases us with the promise of a 'dopamine hit' of information and just can't be ignored.

Doggedly we react to dozen, even hundreds, of emails and texts every day, even if it disrupts our 'down time' and eats into sleep - depriving us of rest and adding to our stress, with all the potential for ill-health that this brings.

Quite literally, we are multitasking ourselves to ill-health, 'overheating' our brains to the point of destruction. As Dr Edward Hallowell, author of CrazyBusy: Overbooked, Overstretched, and About to Snap! puts it:

The brain needs periods to recover, not just sleeping at night, but during the day. It simply can't run straight out all day long at peak performance.

Yet that's what many professionals, executives and managers try to do, led by the software technology that enslaves them.

Not surprisingly in a survey by insurance company, Canada Life, more than half of workers questioned said that 2012 had been more stressful than the year before, with ten per cent freely admitting to having taken time off work due to stress.

And even when technology does allow us to produce more, as it undoubtedly does, it's not always certain that what we create is what is wanted or needed. Which brings me to another point, one that isn't often flagged up, but which is possibly the most insidious of all the consequences of our technological intoxication ... it can stop us thinking.

Technology stimulates us to work faster, but that very speed robs us of the time we need to think, turning professional life into a tick box exercise, creating an environment in which quantity is valued more than quality.

But we forget at our peril that thoughts and ideas need time to incubate and be refined - something that often requires little more than a little quiet time alone with pen and paper.

So, with technology the first thing we turn to - often the thing we cling to - when we have a task to perform, we can be led into creating intellectually lightweight confectionery, rather than meaty dishes filled with the protein of intelligence and insight.

Does this make me sound like a technological Luddite? A little, but then perhaps it's time that some of that software that works 'straight out of the box' is put back into its box.

Of course, that's easier said than done. But there are effective strategies and techniques you can use to get technology back under your control rather than the other way round, and I'll be covering some of these in a later blog.

If you'd like to know more about regaining your 'Screen Sense' and other issues relating to your health and the future world of work just visit http://www.maitebaron.com