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ET Project \ Podcasts

ET-096: The Power of Digital Detox: Strategies for a Healthier Lifestyle

With Mr. Colin Corby

ET-096: A conversation with Mr. Colin Corby

and your host Wayne Brown on April 09, 2024

Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET.

Today we’re heading over to the UK to meet up with our guest, Mr. Colin Corby, CEO, and founder of Technology Wellbeing Limited, creator of the Digital Detox Coach, a technologist, TEDx speaker, digital wellbeing coach and endurance athlete. He created the Digital Detox Coach in 2018 to help busy individuals and successful organizations achieve a healthier, more sustainable and productive relationship with technology through transformative change.

Colin has over 30 years experience in leading technology companies. He holds a postgraduate diploma in technology management, a Bachelor of Science and Mathematics, and is a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, as well as the International Coaching Federation.

Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…

Cause most of the things we do is on autopilot. When we consciously think it takes a lot of resources. So we only do it when we really, really have to. But most of the time, we work out of habits on autopilot and smartphone in particular, and our screens, work on this principles, they can distract us. And let’s face it, we have evolved to be distracted. It’s a really critical evolutionary survival skill. Okay? Being focused is, predominantly a learned skill. I mean, how long did it take us to be able to read? I mean, in our school days, it wasn’t a quick process.

So we are designed as biological animals to be distracted. And technology was sort of harnessing all of this with the benefit of being with us all the time and having some really interesting and great apps. ‘Cause, boring apps wouldn’t work. And they’re incredibly successful at doing that. And, everybody knows about the rabbit hole of scrolling and social media and all the rest of it, and the thing is, we’re all involved. No, we have to be connected to live in the modern world. So we are all impacted. There aren’t any exceptions. Will power, it’s not gonna, it’s not gonna hack it…

Today’s Guest: COLIN CORBY

Colin is a keynote speaker, author, and co-author of a number of articles on the future of work, digital culture and digital detox, including the TEDx talk: Are we losing our human identity to technology? I’m not sure about you but speaking with a technology expert as well as a subject matter thought leader has a tendency to pique my curiosity about the future, and this conversation certainly is one that doesn’t disappoint.

Therefore, I’d recommend you get those notepads ready as well as your noise canceling headphones on as we jump into today’s discussion with our guest, Mr. Colin Corby. And this subject on the why, what and how around digital detoxing.

Final words from Colin:

Obviously, it’s lots of research from professor Gloria Mark on distractions and attention span, particularly with information workers. And I think she’s, the latest research is to say that our attention span on a particular screen now is down to 47 seconds, whereas go back 10 or so years, it was two and a half minutes. So we are so used to being distracted.

That if we don’t have any external distractions, we’ll interrupt ourselves. And in her book, latest book, it had a reference to TV adverts.

It said, have you noticed that the shot changes in TV adverts are getting quicker and quicker and quicker, and that’s to keep our attention. And so I started looking at some TV adverts, and yes, you get the shot of one scene. Then the next scene they’re getting into car, the next scene, the car’s arriving, the next scene, they’re in a room. And we are so used to being distracted now that the, our media has, uses that.

But also in one of the studies, she convinced a company to switch off its emails for a day, no Beamfit. And then she measured the attention span and it went up. Emails are an incredible pull on our attention it turns out at work…

0:00:01.8 Wayne Brown: Hello, I am your host, Wayne Brown, and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. Today we’re heading over to the UK to meet up with our guest, Mr. Colin Corby, CEO, and founder of Technology Wellbeing Limited, creator of the Digital Detox Coach, a technologist, TEDx speaker, digital wellbeing coach and endurance athlete. He created the Digital Detox Coach in 2018 to help busy individuals and successful organizations achieve a healthier, more sustainable and productive relationship with technology through transformative change.

0:00:48.5 WB: Colin has over 30 years experience in leading technology companies. He holds a postgraduate diploma in technology management, a Bachelor of Science and Mathematics, and is a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, as well as the International Coaching Federation. He’s a keynote speaker, author, and co-author of a number of articles on the future of work, digital culture and digital detox, including the TEDx talk: Are we losing our human identity to technology? I’m not sure about you, but speaking with a technology expert as well as a subject matter thought leader has a tendency to pique my curiosity about the future, and this conversation certainly is one that doesn’t disappoint. Therefore, I’d recommend you get those notepads ready as well as your noise canceling headphones on as we jump into today’s discussion with our guest, Mr. Colin Corby. And this subject on the why, what and how around digital detoxing.

0:01:48.2 Speaker 3: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.

0:02:01.9 WB: Hello, Team ET. Welcome to this new week, our conversation today’s centers around our opportunity, or maybe even opportunity is too light, but our need to digitally detox and what that means exactly and why we all need to be more self-aware and regulating in this area is what our expert guest, Mr. Colin Corby and I are going to be discussing for the next 40 odd minutes. So if you’ve been feeling a little bit drained, perhaps stressed, maybe struggling to switch off from what Colin refers to at least as our distraction economy, then this episode’s probably one where you want to take a lot of notes, would be my suggestion. Colin, welcome to the ET Project. Great to have the opportunity to connect as well as to talk about this really important subject. So, welcome.

0:03:00.4 Colin Corby: Hi, Wayne. Thank you very much for inviting me.

0:03:03.4 WB: We share some, I won’t say common backgrounds, but we come out of the electrical field earlier in our careers, so we sort of have a similar base that we launched from, but you went in a slightly different direction. And that’s really what we’re here to talk about. So before we deep dive into the whole conversation around digital detoxing, maybe you could introduce yourself a little. What’s your background and what’s led you to this particular current focus?

0:03:37.5 CC: So it’s quite a long story, but then I’m quite old, so it would be, so in my mid 30s, I had a great job, actually. It was in British Telecom and it was looking a lot of world first technologies being involved in all this, and it’s fantastic and I really, really enjoyed it, but I started to suffer from stress. Now, of course, stress wasn’t talked about then, and I found myself passing out a couple of times at work and I thought, well, this obviously isn’t right. This isn’t good. And so had the usual checks, nothing was found, and so I decided, well, what can I do? So I had this memory of being a good swimmer when I was at school and before I started work. So I thought, well, I need to get some exercising. So I started exercising, and as I started exercising, I first got in, I was absolutely rubbish and totally worn out, but exercising and exercising the heart in particular, I started to get fitter and that counterbalanced the stress.

0:04:47.4 CC: And then because I thought, well, it’s working, so I’m going to have to keep doing this. I joined a masters swimming club. I joined a triathlon club, and I got fitter and fitter and fitter. I ended up competing in swimming. I ended up doing four Ironman triathlons, and the stress thing never happened again ’cause my heart could go red right up and then down again and up and down again. But in the process of doing the competitions and doing the Ironman in particular, I started to get this sort of interest in how we could do things just by changing the way that we think.

0:05:26.8 CC: And then I was fascinated by, well, there’s these things that you think, well, I can’t do that and actually, you think about it, you can do it. And so I got this fascination with how the mind worked. I did a little bit of NLP because it’s got some good tools in. I was a little bit worried about it because of its scientific basis, and so I got interest in how the mind works and how the mindset worked. I did various corporate jobs in technology, which still fascinates me, but I had an opportunity of leaving the corporate world. And so when I left my last corporate job, I got a coach to say, well, what is it you want to do? Where is it you want to go into your career? And after two months, I said, actually, I don’t wanna do any of that. [laughter]

0:06:20.5 CC: I just love this idea of technology. I love the idea of the collision with psychology, and I love the idea of mind, body, connection. And I wanna do something that just meshes all those things together. ‘Cause in 2007, the iPhone hit the scene and I’d noticed that, my, I was quite late to smartphones. I noticed that I was on it all the time. I was on my computer all the time and I was exercising. I’m saying, Hey, wait a minute. I’m an exercise person. I can’t be doing all of this. And it just fascinated me, why? And then I trained to be, a digital wellbeing coach and did loads of research on behavioral psychology and why it works, and also how to undo it.

0:07:08.2 CC: So, very long journey, had an opportunity to make a change and realized that actually there’s something I really wanted to do. And, yeah, made the change. So in 2018, I created the Digital Detox Coach, and I’ve been on the journey ever since. And I’m hoping the journey goes on for another 20, 30 years.

[laughter]

0:07:31.3 WB: You talked about the collision between technology and psychology, and, I’m quite fascinated by that. Can you sort of broaden that a little bit? What exactly does it mean to, looking at that intersection, I guess, between the two?

0:07:45.9 CC: Yeah. Well, it, there’s, there’s lots of things that come into play. ‘Cause everything’s complex. Nothing is ever, ever simple. So we’re holding a smartphone, the smartphone is, uses a lot of brilliant marketing tricks. But they work better, because they’re right in front of us. They’re with us, they’re traveling with us. And, if you stimulate the brain with lots of exciting notifications, pictures, the intrigue of whether something’s new. And then basically you can start to, and you create an environment where the person’s not necessarily thinking about the next thing they’re going to do.

0:08:37.6 WB: Right.

0:08:38.3 CC: ‘Cause most of the things we do is on autopilot. When we consciously think it takes a lot of resources. So we only do it when we really, really have to. But most of the time, we work out of habits on autopilot and smartphone in particular, and our screens, work on this principles, they can distract us. And let’s face it, we have evolved to be distracted. It’s a really critical evolutionary survival skill. Okay? Being focused is, predominantly a learned skill. I mean, how long did it take us to be able to read? I mean, in our school days, it wasn’t a quick process.

0:09:26.8 WB: Exactly.

0:09:28.8 CC: So we are designed as biological animals to be distracted. And technology was sort of harnessing all of this with the benefit of being with us all the time and having some really interesting and great apps. ‘Cause, boring apps wouldn’t work. And they’re incredibly successful at doing that. And, everybody knows about the rabbit hole of scrolling and social media and all the rest of it, and the thing is, we’re all involved. No, we have to be connected to live in the modern world. So we are all impacted. There aren’t any exceptions. Will power, it’s not gonna, it’s not gonna hack it.

0:10:12.8 WB: I listened to a TED talk that you, and I think a colleague of yours, Ana Smith gave around losing your identity or losing our identity to technology. And you have some great points in there. I encourage everyone to listen to it. But could you perhaps give some detail about what you mean by losing your identity or our identity?

0:10:37.0 CC: So the TED Talk was a great opportunity. My colleague Ana Smith, she’s based in the US, in Texas. And I’ve been collaborating, for a long time, for a number of years. In fact, I met her on coaching courses and we’ve done lots of stuff together. So, it starts with me looking at a future scenario. But based on the technology that’s available today and just sort of just pushing the boundaries. But one of those boundaries ideas was that, with Generative AI, it doesn’t matter that, it’s not really intelligent. It doesn’t matter that it’s doing lots of calculations.

0:11:30.0 CC: And we use the wrong words to describe it. It doesn’t matter. It’s how we perceive it that matters. So with the amount of processing power now, we can perceive a digital assistant as being our best friend. So it’s all about this idea of outsourcing. So we’re outsourcing things, we’re creating intermediaries. And the classic example, and, later on, as I mentioned, I’ll probably mention it, is because we now have the ability where we don’t talk to people directly, physically, and interact with them. We use technology. We’ve been doing it for a long time, but now they’re not going to be our words necessarily that we are saying. So there’s intermediary, these assistants and…

0:12:24.6 CC: The purpose of our memory, human memory isn’t to remember the past. It is actually to help us to survive in the future. But digital technology remembers the past. It processes the past. And so actually the first part of their TED Talk is that the technology will know you so well. It can be a better version of you, online. And so your identity transfers to your agents and you’re still in charge of them. You sort of give them an overview of what you’d like to do, what you’d like to say, and all those sorts of things. And they’re having conversations with other assistants and all those sorts of things. And the great thing is, I did watch a program and William Schachner was recording himself for a startup in the US so that people could continue to talk to him after he is dead.

0:13:27.6 CC: And so in that opening, Schachner said, “And they can do this forever.” So the digital representation of you and I in the not too distant future could go on forever. And so that was really the intro, my little mud log intro, and I was fascinated by it. And then we sort of dive into habits. We dive into what it is to be us biological self and why that’s important. And we end up with saying, actually, we need to disconnect. In order to preserve ourselves. We need to be able to disconnect and think for ourselves internally. And so create a sanctuary. So that’s a really quick synopsis. There’s lots of great stuff in between. But I did give my colleague Ana a crash course in memorization because I went from 12 years ago, I couldn’t recite anything to being able to do thousands and thousands of words. And it’s a process, and it’s all about neuroscience and how the brain learns. And so we had a crash course, but I physically met her on the Monday. We did a dress rehearsal on the Tuesday, and we went live on the Wednesday.

0:14:47.3 WB: Very good. You mentioned that by 2025, the amount of time that we spend on our current work tasks is almost going to be equally divided between humans and machines. So 2025 is only next year, Colin.

0:15:06.5 CC: I know. It was a world economic forum assessment, and it was talking about the number of tasks at work, and it had this point where beyond a certain date, more of the tasks, work tasks were going to be done by some form of machines, and then the human element was reducing. In some industries, the percentage is gonna be way higher than that, and in other industries it is not going to be so high, it’s the way it happens. But yeah, so the thing always makes me laugh is that of course, the big technology companies, which are the ones that are going to automate most of the tasks, whenever they see their numbers look slightly dodgy, they get rid of the humans.

0:16:00.1 WB: As we see right at the moment. Yeah. I wanna delve into it a little bit further and maybe you can share some of the biggest challenges or risks that you see. But before we do that, maybe it would be helpful to really explain what are we talking about when we say digital detoxing? I have a vision of what it means, but if you could express it in your own words, would be helpful. I think.

0:16:25.9 CC: Okay. So in the popular media, if people talk about digital detoxing, they’re thinking of putting all your technology away, going out into the country for a weekend or a week and totally refreshing yourself. And that’s a wonderful thing to do. I mean, I’ve done it, lots of people have done it, but it’s not really practical on a daily basis, and it’s not going to bring the most benefit. The definition of digital detox is just a period without being connected to technology. So it can be as short as 20 seconds or as long as these weekends away. Now we all have to be connected to live in the world. So what I like to do is, I like to say, well, digital detox is a detox in the sense that if we are connected online all the time, then the cumulative build-up of stresses and all of those other issues, and the fact that we are not recovering, becomes toxic in the long term to our health and wellbeing.

0:17:42.7 CC: So technology, per se, isn’t toxic, according to the definitions. It’s not even addictive apart from two certain categories, but actually it’s what it stops us doing. That’s the important thing. So digital detox, I see as an enabler to do the things that we really need to do. And I love the idea of, and I promote the idea of digital detox recovery snacks. So every so often, 40 minutes an hour, you’ve been working away on a screen of some sort and you’ve been hunched up all these. You have a break. And that doesn’t mean looking at your phone, and lots of people do that. That’s just another screen. No, you get up, you walk about, you take a coffee, you walk in the garden, you speak to another human, you let yourself recover. I mean, Microsoft did some great research concerning video conferencing fatigue, and they found that if you just did back-to-back conference calls, you just got this community of build-up of stresses. And the problem with that is you take it home with you.

0:19:03.1 CC: And they also worked out that if you had small breaks that you started not only to recover from the stresses, they’re actually more productive ’cause you prepared properly for the next one.

0:19:12.8 WB: Right.

0:19:15.4 CC: Yeah, digital detox, the way that I look at it is all about recovery, lots of short periods of recovery.

0:19:23.0 WB: So what are some of the traps, or what are some of the things we should be thinking about when it comes to this whole usage of technology? Is there anything specifically that jumps out that we should be aware of, that we should avoid or any guidance from that perspective?

0:19:40.7 CC: Yes, let’s put things into context. So there’s a growing, from my perspective, there’s a growing unsustainability about how we’ve evolved as biological beings to survive on this Earth, which is an incredibly complex thing to do. And unintended, mostly unintended consequences of all of the technology and science advances that we’re making and applies to us as leaders, individuals, parents, children, applies to everybody. So here, for examples of what I mean, is predominantly if we’re always online, we’re sitting down. So we’re 20% less active than 1960s.

0:20:36.2 CC: And that’s predicted to get worse. And it’s not just online technology, it’s a trend that’s been happening. It’s been accelerated by online technology. So we’ve got a challenge to invest in moving about more and exercising. So that’s an unintended consequence of the way that we’re working. The second example is being continuously bombarded with external stimulation. Doesn’t give us time to think, to go inwards and think. And ’cause the brain, certain parts of our thinking takes a little bit longer. So we tend to be, if we’re not careful, followers rather than creators. So we have a challenge to regularly disconnect, to go and think for ourselves.

0:21:25.6 CC: It’s an unintended consequence. Now, the third example is, and this one is worrying me slightly, is that we outsource knowledge and skills to technology, because it’s easier, makes our life much, much easier. But in the process, we don’t have those knowledge and skills internally. And when we want to think about things, problem solving and all those other things, we’ve got less to work on. Now, we know the example of Sat Nav, that if you constantly use Sat Nav and you say turn left, turn right, you remember the instructions, you remember where you were and where you’ve got to, but you don’t necessarily know how you got there.

0:22:12.4 CC: Whereas if you use the map, research has shown that actually you get this spatial awareness of where you are. So if there is a traffic jam, or if you don’t have your Sat Nav or the batteries gone or whatever, you stand a chance of being able to navigate. But there’s also, I like to refer to the airline automatic pilot problem. There was a safety notice issued I think 2013 from the US Aviation Authority, which strongly recommended that pilots fly planes more, because the crash investigations had established that the autopilot, if the situation becomes too complex, it hands over to the pilot. But the pilots weren’t necessarily doing enough real flying and they didn’t have enough time to recover the planes.

0:23:14.6 CC: So if we outsource too much, then our ability to see the big picture to be created diminishes. And we can see that going to happen more and more with AI. And the last example is we’re more connected as a people than ever before in history. But according to the US Surgeon General’s report, we’ve got an epidemic of loneliness. And with the widespread adoption of generative AI, then that’s only going to increase the use of technology. So we ought to use the capabilities that we’ve got as additional, not a replacement, because we’ve evolved to be a social animals. And if we don’t have that physical and social connection, then that’s detrimental to our health. And there was a lovely study, it was in the media, there’s an 85 year longitudinal study in the US about what’s the the best route to happiness and all that sort of thing and long life. And they came out with connections, human connections in this longitudinal study. And that’s one of the things. So there are these challenges just on those four examples, but the real big challenge is that all of these things are hard and they take conscious effort. So that’s really the context of the problem that we’re trying to solve here.

0:24:54.7 WB: Wow, that gives me the vision that we are headed down a path. Do you feel that it’s already at that tipping point or are we still able to pull back from this?

0:25:07.8 CC: If you look at all of the evidence of health and wellbeing, particularly mental health and things like that, then it’s all pointing in the wrong direction, but, and it’s complex. It won’t be one thing. It won’t be the use of online technology. It won’t be ultra processed foods. It won’t be higher pollution levels and all of those. It won’t be just exercise, although exercise is the easiest thing to do something about. And the consequence of this is where we ought to be, quality of life should be better. We should be living longer. We’ve sorted out diseases or many more diseases that we hadn’t done before. Maybe got a load more to sort out now. That’s not turning out to be the case. So we’re heading in that direction. Now, for my part I’m inspired if I can to inspire and encourage people to get back to understanding that we are biological animals. We’ve got this mind, body, and earth connection. And it’s not some sort of weirdo thing. The science all backs it up.

0:26:24.3 CC: And, so we’ve gotta achieve a sustainability, but it’s gonna take effort. Everything we do takes effort. If you want to learn the piano or the guitar, it’s gonna take effort. If you wanna get, it’s gonna take effort. If you wanna learn something new, it’s gonna take effort, you know? So everything we do is going to take effort. So I want people to enjoy the effort, [laughter] and if I can, inspire, and as I get older, hopefully people say, look at that old boy, he’s able to do it. I’ve got no excuse, [laughter] so I want to inspire as many people to say, you know, I do want to change something. And there is hope and I love a statistic from the London Marathon, organization. And the same be true for other marathons, that half the people that apply will have never run a marathon before. So all those people, for lots and lots of different reasons, lots and lots of personal reasons would’ve reached a tipping point to say, you know what, I’m gonna run a marathon. So there’s hope. I’m always hopeful. [laughter]

0:27:33.4 WB: Right. Right. Now I had a couple of observations and they seem to tie in reasonably well with what you, you’ve just said about effort. The first was that this shift back away from technology requires a degree of self-discipline.

0:27:50.4 CC: Yes.

0:27:51.0 WB: So, to your point of effort. And then the second one is that we’re really talking about reforming habits, good habits, which we know take time. It’s sort of like a formula almost in my mind, listening to what you’re saying and looking at it from that perspective. So there was an app you talk about in one of your papers, I think it’s the, NHS Couch to 5K Run app or 5K app. Which has proved to be an extremely popular app. And you’ve sort of designed your own digital detox Couch 5K program from that principle. Maybe you could introduce that, if you don’t mind, just to give people an understanding what we’re talking about.

0:28:41.7 CC: The NHS app is a peculiar UK thing. It’s totally free. There’s no adverts and all the rest of it because it’s part of the government. But if we take a step back, there was a wonderful thing, that started in the UK where a group of volunteers started a five kilometer park run. Anyone could come along, it didn’t cost anything, and you could walk it, you could run it, you could do whatever. And then it started to spread to lots and lots of other parks in the UK. Now, I don’t know the exact figures, but millions of people have done it. Hundreds of thousands of people do it every Saturday morning, the idea spread. So in the US there are some, park runs as well and other parts of the world there’s park runs.

0:29:34.0 CC: So there was this idea of anybody could get up off the couch and if necessary just walk and find places, and it was free. So the NHS app came on top of that and said, you know what, you know, there’s an opportunity of doing a 5K run now. And so with some personalities to help you, it takes you through steps of walk runs, walk runs, over a 90-minute period. So at the end of it, in whatever pace you can, you’ll achieve your five kilometers and it’s available for everybody. And more or less everybody as, and the people that I’ve done, I’ve known use it, think it’s wonderful. So I thought, well, let’s use that for couch. The 5K. So I got a program that’s completely free. You can download it from the website.

0:30:29.5 CC: There’s no tracking, I don’t know you’ve downloaded it. And it so basically there’s nine weeks. And so in here there are a number of challenges that each week you build on this, this, and this. The one that I love is the Just One Thing Challenge, and it’s…

0:30:47.1 WB: Probably that’s about week seven or week eight, I think.

0:30:51.4 CC: Yeah. It’s devilishly hard and it means that you consciously think, you know what, pre-planning helps with habits, helps disrupt habits. So you decide in advance, I’m gonna do just one thing, and then you go on to the app and you’re only allowed to do one thing, but you wanna do more things. You wanna dive in down the rabbit hole, but you can’t. And then you have to come back away. So in my case, I love to check the weather ’cause I’m obviously in England and we love to do that sort of thing. And then I think, oh, I wanna check my emails, No, I can’t because it’s the just one thing challenge and it’s about handing back control.

0:31:31.3 CC: But you mentioned quite rightly habits. Habits, so when we start something, we have to consciously think about it and that takes lots of resources and it’s harder to do if we’re tired and all those other sort of things. But habits, take anything from 60 days upwards, to form. They form slightly quicker if you attach them to other habits. So yeah, there’s just one thing habit. There’s another habit called, the bookend challenge, which is the sleep one. We’ve really gotta protect our sleep because that’s when the brain, it’s just as active as when we’re awake. It flushes the brain, it gets rid of toxic, it consolidates memories. It’s just that we are not, we are just not conscious. That’s why we have so much difficulty with it. So there’s one on that, there’s one on social media. There’s the digital detox snacks. And so there’s series of challenges and there’s, and you won’t always achieve the challenges. And if you don’t just be kind to yourself and say, ah, my smartphone got the better of me that time.

0:32:41.2 CC: Yeah, even give you a smartphone a name, just by giving a smartphone a name you start to get separation between you and the smartphone. So yeah, so there’s getting off your couch with your smartphone to being in control of when use it and using it as an incredibly useful tool, but not for everything.

0:33:04.6 WB: Yes. Yeah, for sure. I’ve downloaded it by the way, and I’m in the process week one, [laughter] so I’ll let you know how that goes. You also touch on, as you just mentioned in one of the weeks of the challenge, you do touch on this sleep topic. Probably not surprising for most of the people listening that quality sleep plays such a critical part in our overall health, not just from a digital perspective, but the digital device itself. If I’m not wrong, through the blue screen, the blue light or the blue screen, it really acts as a stimuli and arouses the brain if that’s correct, and makes it more difficult to sleep. Right.

0:33:52.9 CC: So I don’t focus on the blue screen idea because from a technology point of view that could be altered. The issue comes in overstimulation.

0:34:03.9 WB: Okay.

0:34:04.0 CC: And, so if you are on your phone immediately before you go to bed, all of that stimulation, and then you’ve gotta try and quieten down and it takes you longer to get to sleep. If you sleep with your smartphone close by then and the same is true as if you’ve got a smartphone on a table or on your pocket, the mere presence of that smartphone, take some cognitive load. You can’t forget that it’s there. It’s close to hand. And there’s been some great research about the performance of children in exams. And the ones with no phone present outperform the ones where a phone might even be face down. But if you, if it’s by the bed and you are using it for your alarm, then the fact that it’s there and then when you wake up at night and the phone’s there, it’s pulling, it’s pulling all the time. And the other problem with having the smartphone close to your bed is that when you wake up in the morning, instead of feeling refreshed and trying to work out what is it I really wanna do today? What is my agenda? A lot of people pick up their phone and then their agenda is set by the news, which is always not good. And of course, social media or something else, and you lose…

0:35:35.2 WB: Emails etcetera.

0:35:35.2 CC: Yeah. You lose the opportunity of setting your own course for the day.

0:35:39.2 WB: Yeah. Is there any recommended time juncture between when you want to be asleep and when you should put the phone away? Or is that too prescriptive or should you just try and leave it outside the bedroom?

0:35:53.8 CC: I, so there are two things. One is to stop looking at your phone and I haven’t seen any research to say it should be 30 minutes or one hour or one and a half hour. But putting your phone and charging it in another room creates that physical barrier. It’s a lot of effort to get up in the night and go to another room to pick up your phone. Not to say that you wouldn’t do that, but it is a physical barrier. But then you’ve got the problem is, yeah, but I need the alarm. Because one of the things our smartphones do so well is they encapsulate all the things we need to do in life, from our bank, our contacts and all those sorts of things. And I looked at that problem and I thought, well, okay, let’s go back to an alarm clock. But actually, I’ve got one of these light alarm clocks that where the light slowly increases, and then the alarm is, can be waves, it can be birds, and all the rest of it. I love it. I think it’s brilliant. So, yeah. So if you’re not gonna use it as alarm, you’re gonna have to put it away. But we know the presence of a phone is really, pulls on us because go to a restaurant nowadays, how many times do you see a couple together looking at their phones?

0:37:23.8 WB: Yeah.

0:37:24.1 CC: Or families. So we know the pull effect of phones.

0:37:29.4 WB: Sure. You just have to hop on a train. I’m based in Shanghai, and you just have to get on the train and everybody has their head in their phone, almost the anomaly to see somebody with their head up looking around. Right. So it’s just, it’s overtaken our lives, right. We just are constantly on.

0:37:47.6 CC: There’s this idea of constantly being busy with an external activity.

0:37:57.3 WB: Yeah.

0:37:57.8 CC: Is, it means that we don’t get it a lot of time on our own, and then if we’re on our own and there’s nothing to do, we’re uncomfortable.

0:38:05.9 WB: Yes.

0:38:07.8 CC: Obviously, it’s lots of research from professor Gloria Mark on distractions and attention span, particularly with information workers. And I think she’s, the latest research is to say that our attention span on a particular screen now is down to 47 seconds, whereas go back 10 or so years, it was two and a half minutes. So we are so used to being distracted.

0:38:38.7 WB: Yeah.

0:38:40.1 CC: That if we don’t have any external distractions, we’ll interrupt ourselves. And in her book, latest book, it had a reference to TV adverts.

0:38:54.1 WB: Wow.

0:38:54.7 CC: It said, have you noticed that the shot changes in TV adverts are getting quicker and quicker and quicker, and that’s to keep our attention. And so I started looking at some TV adverts, and yes, you get the shot of one scene. Then the next scene they’re getting into car, the next scene, the car’s arriving, the next scene, they’re in a room. And we are so used to being distracted now that the, our media has, uses that. But also in one of the studies, she convinced a company to switch off its emails for a day, no Beamfit. And then she measured the attention span and it went up. Emails are an incredible pull on our attention it turns out at work.

0:39:45.6 WB: Is there anything we haven’t spoken about, Colin, around this detoxing that you think our listeners need to be aware of before we wrap up?

0:39:53.5 CC: I, it’s just such a huge, it’s a huge topic. I think, if your listeners can contact you and say, actually, I wanted to know about these things or those things, then perhaps we can get together or I can send some information, that might be a nice thing to do.

0:40:08.7 WB: So how can they connect with you?

0:40:11.8 CC: So, now here’s the irony. So I’m gonna talk about digital detox, and now I’m going to say the website, [laughter] because we all have to live in this world. So the website is thedigitaldetoxcoach.co.uk. You can get there by dotcom as well, but dotco.uk is where it all lands. Lots of free resources and there’s links to other places like the YouTube channel and stuff like that. And of course, there’s the download of the Couch to 5K. Don’t have to enter your name, just download it.

0:40:50.4 WB: Colin, wonderful to connect, all the best with the business, and I look forward to staying connected.

0:40:56.0 CC: Thank you very much, Wayne. Thanks for having me.

0:41:00.1 Speaker 3: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, eBooks, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.

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