Business 30 April 2018
If technology was human, it would have received an accolade for world domination. From the moment we awake until the time our heads touch the pillow at night, technology has become intertwined into almost every aspect of our daily lives, and its presence is on the rise. The internet, as an example, has experienced an increase of 100 million worldwide users, bringing to the total figure to 3.6 billion during 2016-2017, according to Statista. Despite the surge, is technology enhancing our lives or creating a feeling of disconnection?
According to recent figures published by NHS Digital, a gender disparity exists in how technology affects males and females, with a higher rate of mental health disorder symptoms (including depression, anxiety, and irritability) recorded among women than men. And, crucially, experts have identified the pressures of social media as a contributing factor. For all its intentions, social media users indicating a feeling of reduced happiness (compared to their counterparts on social networks), is on the upward. But the issue stems broader as technology continues to impact other areas of our lives.
"For all its intentions, social media users indicating a feeling of reduced happiness (compared to their counterparts on social networks), is on the upward."
A lack of time
“It appears that we have a culture, at least in the US, which advocates more of a work-life balance, but current research on the subject describes employees having a tougher time finding that balance,” says Dr. Colleen Mullen, a therapist who specializes in ‘coaching through the chaos’. “Work weeks are longer compared to 20 years ago, and technology sees people often tethered to their phones, on calls and emails that are expected to be answered.” The flow of new technology entering the market creates an air of urgency to remain continuously “plugged in,” in turn creating stress and anxiety in areas which previously didn’t exist.
“Despite there being very few circumstances in which a person absolutely must stay connected 24/7, there is sometimes the attachment for escapism purposes and other times it can be a case of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) that lends itself to always having to be ‘on’,” explains Dr. Mullen. “I’ve never a found a person to believe their entire business would fold if they were to take a few hours a night off their phone or computer.”
"Ultimately, our constant need to check in has detracted from focused productivity as we are faced with more outlets for distraction."
Are we more productive?
Whilst technology has streamlined our day to day functioning, facilitating the ease of workflow and allowing for greater flexibility than ever before, has it increased our productivity? For all its practicality, the desire to remain “plugged in” has opened the door to unwanted distractions, in turn hindering our ability to focus. “As an example, I often see clients wrapped up in the maze of dating apps and online dating sites,” says psychotherapist and life coach and recovery coach Dr. Sherry Gaba.
“They can’t turn off their anxiety waiting for that next text to arrive from that potential date, leading to a lack of focus on their projects at work because they are too obsessed with waiting for that next dating app swipe to make its way.”
Inc.’s recent article on the topic of unplugging in business explores the positive aspects of implementing periods of “unplugging,” to allow focused pockets of energy which can generate ideas to move a business forward. “Programming downtime into your day refuels and refreshes your ideas from your logical left-brain to your creative right brain for more ideas, intuition, productivity, and creative insights," Dr. Gaba says.
"You often get your best ideas whilst driving, napping, exercising and taking a shower,” outlines Dr. Gaba. The Best of BBC Future argued that technology may be enabling us to tick more things off our list at a quicker pace, but the reality is a shift in how we work, rather than how much we’re doing. Our lifestyle sees us in search of filling every minute of downtime with output, but there is a limit. Ultimately, our constant need to check in has detracted from focused productivity as we are faced with more outlets for distraction.
Why we need to unplug to reconnect
“One of the many benefits of switching off from technology is bringing about rest to your fatigued brain so you can work more efficiently and effectively. When you are tired, you don’t think as clearly, creatively, or effectively and are therefore more apt to make mistakes, and making impulsive decisions at all hours is now the new norm. This merged life is frantic and messy having to switch back and forth from mommy to worker bee,” explains Dr. Gaba.
“I recommend to my clients a technology detox, exploring with them the benefits of unplugging to allow time for thoughtful reflection, creative inspiration and explore activities that recharge their energy and reconnect them with themselves.”
Even for our physical health, unplugging has its benefits. A 2016 study published in Computers on human behavior discovered that people who left their mobile phone at home spent more time in the higher intensity workout zone than those who use their phone during a workout. Further, technology has bred increased laziness, with more time spent sitting and straining at screens, leading to other issues including body aches and vision alteration. And it also affects our ability to communicate with those nearest and dearest to us, with many of us suffering from feelings of isolation and loneliness.
We can’t dispute the remarkable impact technology has afforded and its crucial role in modern lifestyle, but the improved life quality from disconnecting is “incentivizing,” as put by Dr. Mullen. “The benefits gained range from better sleep, more time to spend with family and friends, and less intrusive thoughts, to keeping up with everyone else and having the time to think about life circumstances and work through some struggles.”
Armed with the facts, are you ready to unplug?
It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.