Instead of helping us find greater purpose, a ton of daily digital interactions lock us into a passive relationship with our tech. We work in a culture of perpetual distraction – saturated with mindless social scrolling, notifications and emails – where we consume more than we create. But we can break the cycle: it starts with taking our “digital wellness” more seriously and becoming more intentional with how we use our devices. And for many, time tracking might just be the tool to help us get there.
What is digital wellness?
Concepts of physical and psychological “wellness” are long-established, but our hyper-connected “always on” era has given rise to a completely new one: digital wellness. In short, it relates to how our use of technology affects our physical and psychological health. We already know that computers and phones are linked to health problems like eye strain and ‘text neck’, but the psychological consequences are more elusive, and often harder to treat.
Digital wellness is increasingly gaining relevance in the debate around the attention economy – the market race between major companies like Facebook, Apple and Google to secure our focus. The aim is to keep us using their platforms for as long as possible, and often employs aggressive methods that take advantage of our own psychology to do so. But the attention economy is not the only factor destabilizing our digital wellbeing.
The work tools we use on a daily basis use similar methods which together have locked us into a culture of perpetual distraction. Slack messages, emails, meetings and notifications all limit the time we have available each day for productive, focused “deep work”. We leap from one task to another, multitasking and replying to messages the minute they arrive. It creates an environment of “busyness”, where we feel we’ve done a lot of work, but have very little of substance to show for it at the end of the day.
Together, ‘busyness’ and the attention economy work to limit our creativity and productivity. Instead of acting with intention, our digital interactions become passive; instead of being fully present and focused on a task, we are constantly interrupted and distracted. Digital wellness is a direct response to this erosion: it’s about taking back control and using technology with purpose for a meaningful end. So how exactly do you go about addressing it?
Act with purpose, not compulsion
In the fight against passive consumption, we first need to become conscious – of how we use our tech, of what we want to do with it, of what we see as “unhealthy”. So, the most powerful first step anyone can take to improve their digital wellness is to be aware of how and where they spend time online.
This is according to Giancarlo Pitocco, who quit working for some of the world’s biggest agencies to champion digital wellness and mental health. His organization Purposeful not only tackles the attention economy, but also the harmful habits we form as a result of it… because continual disruption comes at the expense of wider generational progress, as well as our own wellbeing.
As Pitocco advises, the first step to act with purpose instead of compulsion is to take stock of how much time our tech takes from us without our consent. It’s about facing the hard truth of our own unconscious digital behavior: did you really choose to spend an hour scrolling through Instagram, or did you do it unintentionally? Without being aware of what you’re actually doing with your tech, you can’t put controls in place to start using it more positively.
How time tracking helps
For Pitocco, time tracking is a no-brainer here – it’s the best way to capture screen time across all your devices and take a critical look at where that time goes.
Discovering how you really spend your time can help you become more mindful of what you’re doing, pinpointing the behaviors and tools that lead to distraction. But it can also allow you to free up space for work that has real value. Once you know how your focus is broken, you can set the conditions for more productive, focused work – whether that means introducing a communications framework, outsourcing low-value work, or using time blocking to create space for uninterrupted deep work.
Just be careful about which tracking tool you choose. You’re trying to reduce digital distractions, not add to them, so pick a solution that actually works around you. Automatic time trackers are the best choice for those seeking an accurate account of time with minimal input. They track all your activity on your work desktop for you – down to the apps, documents and websites you were using. No timers or writing notes; skip straight to analyzing where your digital time goes.
You simply can’t improve your digital wellness without first knowing what’s holding it back. Only with time tracking can we hold ourselves accountable for our behavior, minimize mindless consumption, and decide exactly what tech should do for us.