Digital Addiction: Why Self-Leadership is the #1 Remedy
Screenagers, going laptopless and how our digital behaviours impact our physical health and mental wellbeing. These are just some of the topics Kristy and I discussed during this impactful episode.
#digitalwellbeing #digitalproductivity #thriveonline
– Hello, and welcome to the Wine and Wisdom Show. If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, welcome to spring as well. And for everybody around the world, welcome to my birthday month. It is September, it’s my favourite month of the year because winter is over and I have a birthday. So, lots of spoiling for me, I hope.
But if you are here for the very first time, welcome to the Wine and Wisdom Show. I really appreciate you putting some time to come on live here tonight. If you are returning, thank you for coming back, it’s also always so wonderful when you write in the comments and I get to see who is on and the returning people.
So, thank you for doing that. But for the people who are here for the very first time, I would like to tell you a little bit about this show. I believe really, it’s all about connection. And I think something that we can all agree on that has come out of this pandemic in a positive way is that as humans, we really crave being connected with other humans who can bring a smile to our face, they can bring some warmth to our heart and they can bring some wisdom to our brains. And tonight, we are going to get so much of that.
This show being all about connection firstly, for me to be able to connect with you and have a little wine with you, I hope you’re there with something yummy in your glass. But also, for me to be able to connect you with the really talented and courageous and resilient self-leaders that I am lucky enough to have in my world and tonight is no exception.
Oh, I have the most incredible guest that I have had, so many people be messaging me either on LinkedIn or Facebook or via email about tonight’s topic, which is called Digital Addiction, How Self-leadership is the Number One Remedy. And we have got the amazing Dr. Kristy Goodwin who is going to be talking with us. I’m going to bring her up so you can see her smiley face. Here she comes. Oh, hey Kristy, how are you?
– Hello. I’m good, I’m ironically sharing this post to social media digitally distracted, I’m not working my book.
– You’re not digitally addicted, different thing
– Not too much
– You know while you’re doing that, I’m going to tell everybody a little bit about you and the fact that Kristy is a digital wellbeing researcher, she is a performance enhancing researcher, speaker, she is writing a book. In fact she just told me something, she just got emailed by a fancy pants place that want to do a book deal with her as of today, so that’s pretty amazing!
If you go to her website and I’m going to be putting all her links in there post this live event, you will see that she has been on the media umpteenth times, her knowledge about this digital world that we are living in and how to I suppose, put boundaries around it so we can still perform at our best at work and in life and as mothers. As Kristy is a mother of three, so she knows all about the challenges that mums and dads have across the globe of trying to disconnect their kids from the screen. I think you call them screenagers, don’t you?
– I do, that’s my colloquial term for them.
– Yes, I love that. So, she’s going to talk to us a little bit about that tonight, but, not but, let me just say welcome, Kristy. I very much appreciate you being here tonight and I know you’re going to be able to share so much wisdom.
– My pleasure, it is great to be here and to be connecting virtually. I think this is one of the huge of the many benefits that technology offers us. It’s not all doom and gloom, technology has the potential to offer so many benefits and affordances and to be able to connect in real time and socially distanced appropriately. It’s one of the main benefits.
– Absolutely. And this show is not about putting people on digital detoxes or another way to say it, being laptopless. I love that one, I love that one. It’s not about that, is it? At all.
And we are going to talk about that and we have got some people coming on right now. So, thank you, Tiffany. Hello, Sue at Screenagers. I know Tiffany has three screenagers, so she is definitely, I look forward to the goal that you have got tonight. But Kristy, before we go any further, I’d love you to actually introduce yourself and let everybody know who is watching about the absolute, incredible work that you’re doing, you’re sprinkling across the globe so that we can all live a better life in this digital world.
– Oh, thank you, and it is wonderful to be here. I’m going to be completely transparent and tell you that I fell into this work by a couple of serendipitous events. I had been a teacher turned academic and my research interest was looking at the way technology was impacting children and adolescents on their physical health, their mental wellbeing and their learning. And I became a bit of a frustrated academic. And I became frustrated because I could still have this wonderful research being done, but it was not getting communicated and disseminated to the people that matter the most.
And then I had my first son, now this isn’t how I date his chronological age, but it’s important for this story. He was born six months after the first iPad came out. So, I went to my local health care clinic nurse for the regular six-month developmental check and the clinic nurse did not know what I do for work. And she turned and was asking me all the regular questions you’d expect at a six-month check. Was he having tummy time? Was he eating solids? And then she turned and asked me what screen time he was having at six months of age, and I proceeded to tell her that he was not having any, and she leaned forward and she did the Skippy sound and the wag of the finger and Joan, the healthcare clinic nurse proceeded to tell me that my son would fall behind if he was not tapping, swiping and pinching on the iPad at six months of age. And she also prescribed a dose of baby Einstein DVDs every day. Now I was outraged.
I knew as a researcher; this was grossly incorrect misleading information. So, I went home, got the non-sleeping baby to have a nap, and he had one of those total four hour naps, the ones where you go in and check that they arebreathing and then command a crawl out. And I was so outraged by this information that I did two things. The first thing, ironically, I started a social media campaign that babies need lapse, not apps, it went viral. And the second thing that I did with this four-hour nap period was write a book. And so, my first book was called “Raising Your Child in a Digital World”, and it provided parents, educators and health professionals like Joan with research-based information about the impact technology’s having.
This is a really polarising technology, particularly with kids and adolescents. I’m a huge advocate for science-based information. So, I took that information and I translated it into what parents, educators, and health professionals needed to know. And that kept me busy for a number of years, and then in the last couple of years, it was through parents’ seminars that I was delivering that a lot of parents would come up at the end of the seminar and say, “Look, do you ever speak to adults about this? Because so much of what you’re talking about tonight, I haven’t talked to parents to help them understand their child or adolescent’s techno tantrum, why does your child emotionally combust when you remove their digital appendage?” And so many adults said, “I struggle with this just as much as my kids do. I may not throw the techno tantrum, but I find it hard to go laptopless or to stop the social scroll.”
And then the second incident that led me to where I am today, and I’m only recently sharing this. So, I get a little bit emotional every time I share it and I know you have heard me share this before too, Heidi, but I’d arrived home from a speaking engagement in Singapore and my toddler at the time was very excited to see me. So, he decided to skip his nap for that day. So I quickly opened the lid on my laptop to send a colleague an email, to cancel an appointment I had and in the space of opening the laptop and seeing the 72 unread emails that had landed in my inbox, I tried to triage that inbox very quickly and my son fell off the lounge while I was digitally distracted. And he had a really significant fall which required hospitalisation.
And it hit me like a tonne of bricks. Here I was somebody who researches distraction and digital wellbeing, yet I was tethered to my technology. So, I went on a quest to better understand why as adults, we have become seduced by the screen.
What is it about the online world that captivates, that enthrals and appeals to us? And so that’s what’s led me and kept me busy for the last little while helping to understand without the guilt, because technology is here to stay, but helping us understand our digital behaviours and infatuations.
– And I love that because I have this favourite saying of mine, which is perfection is a fairy tale. So even though you have got a PhD in this, you are speaking around the world on it, you have a mega following, you are writing a book, you are across the media, it doesn’t mean that you are perfect with it. And it is hard for all of us that I think during 2020, when we have all had to be far more digitally connected than ever before, it’s pretty full on for all of us.
I mean, I’d love to lead that into this next question, which is all about, in this year of 2020 when we have had to oh my gosh, from the time we wake up really to the time of going to bed for us, this combination of work and play and everything, because even in the major lockdowns, we had to instead of meeting people to have a glass of wine with or a chat, we had to do it through the digital world. So, we were upping our time on the digital devices, but what is the impact, Kristy, that’s having on our physical health and our mental health?
– Yes, the research in this space is still in some ways in its infancy, but we do know that our digital behaviours are having a fairly profound impact on our physical health. Everything from our vision we know for example that rates of myopia, so near sightedness have increased in recent years, and what we think is one of the chief contributing factors, we try to surprise people from people who are quick to point the finger at technology and say, well, it’s because we are looking at screens close distance.
What we think is perhaps one of the other leading causes of this increase in myopia is what our time on devices is displacing, and that’s what I often refer to as the opportunity cost. And it is the time that we aren’t getting in natural sunlight. We know natural sunlight is a really key factor in offsetting the likelihood that we will develop myopia which is that near sightedness.
So we know that it’s impacting things like our vision and we also know our musculoskeletal health, I know physiotherapists and chiropractors during lockdown have reported increasing numbers of people presenting with things like technic, given that we are hunched over our devices and often if we have been thrust into work from home situations, we haven’t necessarily got the right ergonomic setup for our workspace as well.
We know that it’s having a profound impact even on our hearing, particularly if you have got children, many young people like using little earbud headphones, it doesn’t matter if they arethe ear pod or the actual wired headphones and they can reach 130 decibels. Safe levels for kids are a maximum and absolute maximum of 85 decibels. So, what does every child do when they put headphones on? Crank up the volume. And so, they arealmost doubling their threshold and in fact, the World Health Organisation estimates that 1.1 billion, that’s with a B, billion people could potentially suffer from noise induced hearing loss in the next couple of years.
So, it’s not about saying don’t wear headphones, it’s about saying, well, how can we get to wear the right headphones? So, limiting our headphones to listening to music for no more than an hour a day, wearing the noise-canceling EMF style headphones in lieu of the ear pod or earbud headphones, we also know, and this one I think crosses over both our physical health and our mental wellbeing. One of the biggest risks to our health and wellbeing is the way that technology is sabotaging our sleep. That has a prolific impact on as I said, our mental health and our physical health as well.
When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, the research is still in its infancy, we hear a lot of popular media about how social media and smartphones have a root cause of the decline in mental health outcomes, particularly with adolescents and young people. And the research is a real bugbear of mine, the research tells us that there is a correlation. There is definitely a correlation between time spent on social media platforms and smartphones and poor mental health outcomes, but what we don’t yet have is the research to prove causation.
Is it the fact that people with existing mental health issues gravitate more towards the online world because it’s a compensatory tool or it’s a form of escapism or it’s a coping mechanism? Or is it the other way round, that technology, that these social media and smartphones are actually contributing to the poor mental health outcomes? And I actually think the Kristy hypothesis at this stage and from the research that we are conducting it’s the opportunity cost, it’s that displacement effect of some of our most basic psychological needs.
And I think sleep, relationships and physical movement are some of the key things that our technology habits are displacing that might be causing the mental health risks that we are seeing.
– Yes, yes.
– It’s a huge cascade of consequences, even something as simple, we know poor mental health outcomes can be associated with people depending on what social media platforms they areon, so it’s a really nuanced conversation, it’s not to say all social media causes this, but something that many adults and teenagers are affected by is the compare and despair phenomenon where we compare our lives to the A role highlight reel that we see others depicting and curating online.
– Yes. Everything you have just said is quite amazing and for everybody who is listening, you can hear that Kristy comes from such a research background, but she’s able to put it through this wonderful filter so that it is
– Understandable for Joglo public like me. Sonji, I don’t know if that’s the right way to say, I’m sorry that the audio is dropping out, but yes, the answer to your question is that it is recorded and Kristy and I will both post it again on our Facebook pages and it’ll also be on my website. So we will be able to send you that, I do apologise for whatever the techno guys are doing, but we will continue on. Kristy, you talked about the impact on sleep. And I want us to go back to a conversation that the two of us had a little while ago.
We were both speaking at a global virtual conference and as we were waiting in the curtain area, we are talking about issues with insomnia and realised that both of our issues have come from the fact that we both wake up at very different times, of course in a life-threatening situation. And what we both now know is that our brains have put this connection with our sleep being the fact that we are in danger. And that both of us were in a situation that if we listened out to the warning signs, and therefore going to sleep now, we have this kind of unconscious thing going on that we are listening out for some kind of warning to prevent being in that danger again.
There’s two parts to this story in this question, the first part, I’d love you to share with everybody who is listening, because your story, despite it being horrendous, excellent, frightening, freaky, is actually very funny as well.
And when I still think about it, I still laugh. So, I’d love you to share that first with everyone because I think it’s a really funny story that will lead to something very important. So please stay for the humour but then stay for the learning. Off you go.
– Okay. So, several years ago, I think it was 2007, it was when the Pasha Bulker got stuck off the coast of Newcastle. So, it was a stormy wet Friday evening and we were in Sydney and my husband and I had just moved into our first house that we had bought, a renovators’ delight they said, and my husband’s a builder.
So, he had come home from work early because it was a stormy day and we had completed the whole internal fit out of the house that we were working on. He came home and literally hung up artworks inside our bedroom that particular afternoon. We had a huge and I mean huge, it was eight tonnes, we discovered after the storm, an eight-tonne gumtree in our front yard. And when we moved in or before we purchased the house, in fact, we checked with the real estate agent about the tree. So, I was a little bit dubious of a tree hanging over the front of the house and he said, “No, you have got council approval to remove it.”
However, when we applied to council to have the large specimen removed, we were told that no such permission had been granted and that it was a healthy tree and we could trim 10% of it. So, we were in our bed on this stormy night and it was howling, it was absolutely horrific. And I woke up and said to my husband, “That tree is going to fall down.” And being a man and the logical builder that he is, he said, “Don’t be ridiculous, Kristy, trees that size don’t fall down. You are fine, go back to sleep.” And so, I nuzzled into him, into his shoulder and was laying there and that 10 tonne gumtree fell and literally rested on our bedhead. It blew off and collapsed the roof on top of us and blew out the side of our house.
My husband was an ex footballer, so he got out from the debris and said, “I’m going to go and get help.” And I had beams and tiles literally the whole roof, and a tree branch that had punctured the mattress next to me, and it was pitch black and the storm and rain was coming in.
But the problem was, and I should have rejoiced that my husband had said he was going to get help whilst I was pinned underneath the rubble. The problem and the reason I was not so excited was that I used to sleep without pyjamas on. So I was stark naked, and all I was worried about was being rescued in the nude. So my husband went off and literally, he said, “I can’t lift the beams off your Kristy, you’re stuck, I need to go and get help.” And I said, “Well, get help, but get me clothes as well.” Because our wardrobe blended in next to our neighbour’s park yard. So, he went off to get help and I actually have no recollection of this next part. But in between him leaving, I had somehow mustered up that superhuman strength that often happens in freak accidents, and I got out from underneath the rubble and I went and found my pink Nokia phone and I decided because I was in shock, to ring my mom and I rang my mum and this was 3:00 in the morning. I rang my mum to tell her that I was dead. And her first response was, “Kristy, have you been drinking? Have you taken drugs? Put Nick on the phone.” And I said, “I don’t know where Nick is, I think he’s died too,” this is my husband.
Anyway, I’m on the phone to my mom, stuck, naked, telling her that I’m dead, and my husband and his team of neighbours turn up with a spotlight and I realised at that point in time that I was not dead, that I was in fact naked in full view of the rescue team, which were our neighbours.
So, I hung up from my mom, she had no idea what was going on. She’s trying to ring my husband and find out, have I overdosed on drugs? What was going on?
Anyway, we sorted it out, all was resolved. We lived in a beautiful hotel for nine months while they repaired and restored our house, but it was a really strong, as you said, Heidi, really strong association from that point in time between my brain associating sleep with danger. And then for nearly 12 years after that, I have suffered from really terrible insomnia.
– Thank you for sharing about the nudity story, that’s fantastic and yes, Magdaleen’s saying that, oh my, I am learning, never sleep naked? I’m glad that’s a good learning for you, Magdaleen. But of course, it leads me to this next part, thank you for sharing, it’s hysterical. But of course, 12 years of insomnia, you know, productivity, when you’re sleep deprived is so much lower, isn’t it?
– We expected to be at our best. I mean, I know you shared with me that your husband even with not wanting you to drive the kids anymore, because you were so sleep deprived, that’s how bad it got. But linking this back to what we have been talking about, you are a productivity guru, and what we are going to share tonight everybody, I will put in the show notes, Kristy has an amazing course that she’s gifting everybody, about productivity and how to do that better in this digital world. So, you will get that.
But our digital devices as you said, are having a huge impact on our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, and of course that impacts our ability to be productive at work the next day. So, what are some of the things that you have learned over 12 years of having to, because it doesn’t matter, does it? Why we are sleep deprived. It doesn’t matter, the fact is when we wake up that next day and we feel horrendous, then we need to find a way to put something in our lives so that we can try and get to sleep and stay asleep. What are some of the things that you have learnt?
– Look, I’m going to say, when it comes to technology, there are some things, some strategies that we can put in place to try and minimise the impact that technology is having on our sleep.
So, I want to just explain how our screen habits, because often, there are some things that we often, sorry, there are some things that we sometimes overlook, that seem rather benign, but can actually really over a period of time, have a negative and cascading impact on our sleep. So, we know if we are using particularly handheld devices, so smartphones and tablet devices in the 60 to 90 minutes before we fall asleep, it can not only delay the onset of sleep because these small devices emit blue light, blue light goes into our eyes and hits the pineal gland, and the pineal gland is what makes melatonin. And so our pineal gland gets a message that from this blue light, it’s time to stay awake, don’t make melatonin. And so, our poor amount of melatonin or the decrease in melatonin means that we are not falling asleep quickly and easily. So it can push back on the time that we would normally fall asleep. And over time, those sleep delays can accumulate as you said, into a really negative sleep deficit.
But the other way, and I think sometimes we often overlook this, is that if we are on our devices in that 60 to 90 minutes, it can stimulate the limbic system, so the emotional centre of our brain, it can activate the sympathetic nervous system, so we enter that fight flight or flee, you only need to see one stressful email or one sort of unkind message or upsetting post on social media, and you can really activate that stress response.
The other way that our digital habits can encroach on our sleep is that if we are using them before we fall asleep, we know from studies that are emerging now that our REM sleep, so the phase of our sleep cycle, the rapid eye movements, so phase of the sleep cycle, it’s the fourth component or the fourth phase of our sleep, this is the part of our sleep which is where memory consolidation occurs. And we now know that if we are exposed to too much blue light in the period before we go to sleep, people are not getting a sufficient amount of the REM stage of sleep. That phase of the sleep cycle is a lot shorter in people on devices.
So it’s a double whammy, not only are we often not getting enough sleep because we are going to sleep later because of either we are on the device and it’s pushing back up bedtime or the blue light effect that is delaying the onset of sleep, not only are we getting or not getting the right amount, but we are also not getting good quality deep sleep.
REM sleep is basically when our brain is always backing up, pardon the analogy, but it’s almost like that consolidation stage. And so, this is why we can feel tired and foggy and as you said, it has huge impacts on our wellbeing.
– Absolutely. And it’s interesting you should say, it just reminded me, thank you, Karen, nice to see you. It does make so much sense and Kristy have such great information. In fact, it’s such good information. I had somebody message me today to say they have been off all social media for the last 12 months. But knowing that we were going to be talking about this tonight, they were thinking about coming back on Facebook, just so they could watch it. Andrea, if you are here and you have to, Hello, I just wanted to say that.
But I want to go back to Sonji’s… Sorry Sonji, I don’t know if that’s how you say your name. You have got your teenager sitting next to you and he or she would like to know to explain from the other mental health impacts that our over use of, I’m presuming overuse of digital use has on us.
– Yes, we know there’s some research telling us that there is a strong association between social media use. And again, depending on the types of platforms and the types of people you are following on these platforms and negative body image for both boys and girls, often we associate body image with an issue that only confronts girls and the research is telling us that it is definitely an issue affecting both sexes. So it can have that negative impact. I think the biggest thing with young people and mental health is again, as I said before, it’s the displacement effect.
It’s the fact that… And at this point in time, particularly if you are in an area in the world that is impacted by a lockdown situation and you don’t have the opportunity to connect in real time with real people, then social media can be a wonderful alternative. But for a long period of time, or if that is our only mechanism of connection with real people, we are missing out on really important opportunities for relationships.
We are hardwired, one of our most basic psychological drivers and needs as human beings is the need to be part of a relational tribe, we are hardwired to connect. And I am worried that too much time on social media or too much time, just checking, yes.
Just we did not specify social media, but too much time online is at the detriment of our time to connect with real people in real time. We know when we are physically in connection with people, our brains release oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone, it’s a social bonding hormone. So we are still as I said, in our infancy in terms of our understanding, I don’t know if it’s so much the direct connection or cause of social media and all smartphones or technology use that is solely responsible for poor mental health outcomes, but I definitely think that it’s the displacement effect that is certainly having a contributing role in mental health outcomes.
– No, thank you for that explanation. And I go back to again what I said right at the beginning, is that one thing that I think we have all really, it’s just made us realise so much more than we have ever known is that to have proper human interaction and connection, we have craved it. I mean, I have craved it. When I get to properly connect to have, from a work perspective, obviously people in a room in front of me, you see facial expressions and body language and you have that banter, but just on a social thing, you know that yes sure, we can talk together right now, and this is amazing because we can share your wisdom with the world through platforms like this, but there’s nothing like being face to face with a real human,is there?.
– And I wanted to just add, I’m going to say two things there. I experienced that during the period when we were in lockdown, we had an Uber food delivery and I raced out and started talking to the Uber delivery guy and I just would not let him go and my sons were calling, I think they were hungry, they were like, “Leave the man alone, mom.” And it hit me because my husband was deemed an essential worker, I was trying to home school three kids and I don’t pivot, I piroutte, tried to piroutte my business at the same time, and I was craving that connection.
The other thing I wanted to touch on that you were talking about, and I think is so important, is the need for social connection and how the online world is a great alternative for this particular time. But I want to address the whole concept of Zoom fatigue, because so many people at the moment are talking about how mentally depleted and fatigued, they feel because of all the video conferencing they aredoing, be that Teams or Zoom or whatever WebEx platform they areusing. And what we know is exactly what you were just talking about then, is that it is the, when we are looking at a little head in a box, it is the absence of social cues. It is the absence of body language. It is all of those things that are making our brain work even harder to process information in this virtual format.
It’s also the superfluous information in somebody’s background. When you see your boss and his house or her house, and you’re trying to figure out where they might live or your boss’ partner walked past semi naked, that has happened to me, not with my husband. I was the one witnessing it with someone who had a very high up position and their whole team was on this video conference call and her husband came out without the lower half of his clothing on, shall I say.
– Oh my God!
– True, true, true, true. But there are so many things that makes our brain work even harder, but the most fascinating thing I think the reason we are all feeling so depleted and exhausted online is because this is the very first time in history when we have been in a social dynamic, when we are on virtual meetings where we can actually see our own faces.
We can see all of our idiosyncrasies, all of the strange mannerisms that we never knew we had. So, we called it, it’s called impression management. And so this is the very first time in a social context where we are actually seeing ourselves and it is so depleting.
There’s a great meme and I can share it afterwards of Matthew McConaughey and it says, if this is what Matthew McConaughey looks like on Zoom, I don’t stand a chance. And it’s a rather unflattering factor.
– I’m a bit of a fan of his.
– I will share it with you.
– Thank you very much. Well, and thank you, Tiffany. Yes, this is not a virtual background that I’ve got this. I am also married to a talented builder, Kristy, I did not know that about you. So Thankfully for 2020, I’ve got a lovely background to be able to do my work in.
– There you go.
– Well I don’t, and that’s why I’ve got the decorative one. because I married the builder and this is going to one day be our forever house.
– Well, I like your background a lot. So, I want to come back to the by line of what I put on, this title is that why self-leadership is a number one remedy to digital addiction. And I made that up, you did not tell me to make that the headline, but the reason that I’ve put it because really no one can do it for us, can they?
We have to make our own decision about the boundaries that we make in our digital lives and the usage that we have; it is up to us. Nope, yes, there are apps and there are different things that we can put in place, but we have to first download that app, don’t we?
We have to first do that, we have got to lead ourselves, we have got to start with, I need to do something about this digital addiction or obsession or attachment or overuse, whatever words you want to put to yourself, because I know that I’m not as productive, I don’t sleep as well, and I’m lacking with all the human connections that I could be perhaps getting as long as I’m not in Victoria or in other places of the world. It is really up to us – self-leadership is necessary for us to put the boundaries. Is that right, Kristy? Or am I…
– Absolutely. No, you’re spot on, and I think there are certainly some factors working against us, these technologies that we all use and love and that are integral to our lives have been deliberately engineered to hook us.
There are some really persuasive, clever, sneaky design techniques that get us hooked, the fact that they meet our most basic psychological needs, I talked before about the need for connection, we also know two of our other most basic fundamental needs are the need for competence and control and technology fulfils those needs so perfectly.
We also know that when we use technology, it causes neurobiological changes in our brains and our bodies. For example, we know we often get hits of dopamine when we are online, particularly if we are doing something that’s pleasurable, this is if you’re a parent, why you may also experience the techno tantrum.
The techno tantrum’s often that withdrawal of dopamine because the brain is craving more and more of it. But that dopamine actually overrides the logical prefrontal cortex of our brain. So, the part of our brain that helps us with self regulation, that’s the impulse control centre, when we get a squirt of dopamine, it floods that part of the brain and inhibits our capacity to self regulate. So, this is why we say I’m just going to watch one episode on Netflix tonight, and one becomes two, becomes four. The other reason that happens is let’s blame Netflix, is because the auto play feature on all of these streaming services and YouTube has now become the default setting.
And so the online world is now this bottomless bowl, there’s no stopping point, there are no stopping cues. So, the technology has been designed to work against us, so you are exactly right, we have to put in place strategies. We have to build, I call it, build a fortress around your focus, we have to install apps, we have to I think develop constraints.
We need, I call it creating borders and boundaries. Where are you going to use technology and where are you going to say no, I’m not going to bring it to the dinner table? Or when I go out with my partner, it’s not going to go with us. Is your bedroom a no-go tech zone? We have got to set parameters.
One of the easiest things you can do is have an autoresponder set up. If you’re going to have a period of time where you need to get some, what Cal Newport calls your deep work done, or you need to get some work done without distraction, have an email auto responder, or have in your email signature an expected response rate. So, there are so many strategies, practical things, something as simple as activating do not disturb mode when you need to do deep focused work.
There are very few instances and there are very few jobs apart from if you’re… Well, this is a really terrible example, I was going to say an air traffic controller, but there’s probably not many of them at the moment, or if you’re in customer service, but there are very few jobs that require instantaneous communication with clients or colleagues, yet most of us, the ping of email humps throughout the day or Slack or Team notifications, and they divert our productivity, sorry, they put a dent in our productivity and they have a huge impact on our wellbeing.
So, we need to put strategies in place, we need to come up with those rules about where, when, how we’ll use the technology, because if we don’t put those rules in place, the technology will use us. I talk about taming our tech habits so that we are not a slave to our screen, easier said than done.
– Easier said than done, and I’d love, those who are watching, I’d love you to put in the comments, one thing that you do successfully, it might not be all the time because perfection is a fairy tale like I said, but the one thing that you do to tame your tech habit and ensure that you can have time for deep work or time for connection, I’d love to hear it.
I’m sure Kristy would like to know what you’re doing. I mean, one thing for me, I certainly do not have, there’s no phones at the dinner table, dinner to me is I set it every night, I light a candle, we have nice food and we drink nice wine, but even if we are not having wine, we’ll still have a wine glass with water in it, just to make it that special time where there is real connection going on.
But I am very… I know how easily distracted I am and I need to certainly put forth just around my focus this, I think especially more than any time this year, when things have had to change so much and reinvention has had to happen and creativity because that’s a whole other topic out, the creativity part of our brain completely deteriorates when we are just doing that all the time, isn’t it right?
– Yes. And that’s why I often say we need, I’m not a huge advocate of digital detoxes, I think detoxes often create a binge and purge cycle, and they do not get to the root of what’s really causing these digital behaviours.
Nir Eyal has written a great book called “Indestructible”, and he unpacks this idea and he often talks about, we can have external distractions, so we can have pings, alerts and notifications, but often it is the internal distractions. We are often thinking about things. Some other strategies that might work for people, I call it the proximity strategy and it’s the, I often say the basics work. If you work the basics, keep the technologies that are distracting out of your line of sight when you need to focus or when you want to be present with your partner or your children. Just seeing your phone can be a psychological trigger to reach for it.
Also, why we should be keeping it out of our bedrooms, because we know just seeing it can be that trigger for, oh, I wonder if my client replied to that email or I wonder how many messages I’ll get in the morning. So yes, proximity strategy out of sight, out of my mind, and the other part of the proximity strategy is keeping your tech temptations off the home screen of your smartphone.
So often we unlock our phone to make a phone call or to use it for a functional purpose, maybe check the weather and that really, whatever your weakness is, maybe it’s Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok if you’re a teen, or someone that likes cheap entertainment, whatever it is, if you see it, you will be tempted to open it.
And again, through no fault of your own, the app icon colours have been deliberately designed to hijack our attention and to be captivating. When Steve Jobs released the first iPod, sorry, the iPod touch, he in one of his media statements said that he wanted the icons to be so appealing that people wanted to lick their phone.
– I know think about that, that’s not a COVID safe practise I’m putting that out there and say, do not do that. But it speaks volumes, the fact that your notification bubble for most of us is red, deliberate choice. Red is associated with urgency, danger, critical information. And so, all of these things have been applied to make these devices really captivating for all of us. So that’s why we have to put those policies in place as best we can.
– Yes, absolutely. I mean, what chance, we have to fight so hard with self-leadership strategies when we have got the big guys like Facebook making icons that are lickable, like chilli, it feels like, it’s such a monster that we have to fight against to keep that focus around our, fortress around our focus.
– But we really do. And I was going to say it is, the technology is not going away. So, whether we love that or not, the reality is that it’s here, I think we have all realised during the lockdown and the health pandemic that these devices are our portal. They areour portal for leisure, they areour portal for learning, they areour portal for work and they do play an integral part in our lives.
But I believe, and this is how I went off on a tangent before, that digital disconnection, we need opportunities to unplug and have digital dementia. I did not fully answer your last question on creativity, I got side tracked.
But we know that the brain, we have these ancient palaeolithic brains and they have not evolved to cope with the constant 24/7 online switch busy digital world that we have all inherited. And one of the key things, I worked with a lot of corporate teams and they want to bolster productivity and look after staff or being, and one of the best things that we can do for both of those things is to carve out times for digital disconnection.
It doesn’t have to be a detox, it doesn’t have to be a long period of time, we need opportunities to punctuate our weeks with white space, we need time to enter neuroscientists, call it the mind wandering mode or the default mode of thinking.
And this is where we daydream. You know, when you used to, in times long ago, going on aeroplane and you would have really great ideas or you go for a swim or go for a run or have a shower and this genius idea would land, you entered that daydreaming mind wandering state. We live in a world now where we feel that white space at the school of the screen. So important.
– It is so important. And I’m really pleased to see that some of us or some people who are watching are doing such a great job. I mean, Magdaleen leaves her phone in the car when she’s meditating because even the vibration she can feel.
Sonji says her teen actually has no tech in bed, that’s very impressive for a teen, sleeps cause of it, thank you, that’s great to hear.
Mitch, I’m glad you have a no phone zone as well at dinner, it’s time to talk about the day. Absolutely.
And Sue is telling us that yes, aeroplane mode at 9:30 a.m. and not turned on until 8:00 a.m. next day. I think she’s maybe meaning 9:30 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. Amazing, that is terrific. So, thank you everybody for that. If you have, I’ve gone way over time as I usually do, because there’s so much wisdom in our guest tonight, Kristy. But if you do have a final question, because I’ve just got a couple for her, but please put them in the comments.
So, Kristy, my second last question to you is, during this time where we are completely reliant on our digital world, you have told us how the research requires us to have time out from it. And when I talk about the fact that we need to boost our resilience, that we can do with a stressful uncertain world, I’d love to know what you’re doing and it might be to do with this digital conversation, but it might not be. But what are you doing right now to ensure that you are resilient enough as a speaker and a trainer who is usually doing things very differently so you can keep on keeping on?
– I’m going to say I’ve got three S’s and they areprobably not what you think. The first one that I know my resilience, my coping mechanism, my mental health, and my productivity is all underpinned by good quality SLEEP. And I know it’s a message we hear time and time again, but I have learnt having lived through years of terrible insomnia, and now close to being on the other side more consistently, the incredible improvement in my output and the way I can focus and my mental wellbeing has definitely been shaped by sleep.
The next S, and I know you’re thinking that it’s one of the S’s, it is being able to ask for SUPPORT. As a mom who runs a business, I have learned the hard way that I need to be able to ask for support and what I have learned, one of the many blessings is that people love being able to support you, to reciprocate the favour or to be one of those support mechanisms. So, whether that’s support in my business, support with the logistics of my kids, or just a friend to have a chat to.
And the third S and this is the one that I’m still working on, it is to SAVOUR the SLOW. When I feel overwhelmed, when I feel bombarded by technology, when I feel like my resilience is waning to carve out time and it’s that disconnection. So, for me, it’s time at the beach, it is being fully present and speaking up my children’s yumminess and scrumptiousness, it’s reading a book. It’s doing something that I know my brain needs because as I said, we haven’t been engineered or we haven’t been designed to be plugged in and switched on around the clock.
So they aremy three, sleep, support and savouring the slow.
– Oh, I love that story… I’ve just got to use those all the time, because that’s exactly what I need for my own life to build my own way of living. So thank you for putting an S to all of them. I would like before my last question, if you could help with Magdaleen, she wants to know how to convince a teenager that this is all a really good thing. And I would imagine you would get asked this a lot, Kristy.
– Yes. So, prior to COVID, I would travel around Australia speaking to a lot of teenagers themselves in schools and what I have learned, having spoken to lots of teenagers along the way, is first of all, if you get their buy in, teenagers are really interested in this topic because they know that technology is an integral part of their lives. If you can have conversations with them and get their input into how they form these healthy relationships with technology, that is much more worthwhile, it is much more receptive than if you are to just impose a technology contract or tell them what you should be doing.
The other thing I have found through lived experience with teenagers is that they respond really favourably to facts and science. It’s really hard to argue. They will try, don’t get me wrong, they will try to counteract you with an argument, but when you present them with facts and science, they are much more amenable to the information that you present.
So yes, I’ve created a couple of programmes, there’re 30-minute videos for teenagers on healthy digital habits and taming digital distractions because I had so many parents say they don’t listen to me, I’m just mom or I’m just dad and I know nothing, can you talk to them? So, there’s some options for you with that space.
And I think the other thing with teens is even just getting them to try one or two things and getting them to have that firsthand tangible experience of the benefits, can be a surefire way to get them on board and to try more things as well.
– Kristy, would you mind actually putting those URLs in the comments? I’m not sure we have finished, because I think there are a lot of people who’d love to have a look at those, that’d be great.
– Yes ,sure. No problem.
– And which brings me to my final question, which is this show with the Wine and Wisdom, I’ve certainly been having a little wine. Now I want your final piece of wisdom, which piece of wisdom have you actually been gifted by somebody in your life? What was the impact that it made on you?
– I really would love to be able to credit this to the person who said it to me, but I actually don’t remember. It was one of these notes, I had a couple of mentors at the time, and I used to make notes as I spoke to them. And I did not attribute this particular note to who said it.
So the saying is to ‘Prioritise the potent.’
And it is something that I live by personally and professionally, it is what has enabled me to build business while raising three young kids at home full time, it has enabled me to be really connected and spend lots of time with my kids and try and build a healthy positive relationship with my husband because if we don’t prioritise what is potent and what is important to us, then this online world will recalibrate those priorities for us. It will thrust those priorities in our face. So yes, for me, it has been to prioritise the potent with everything that I do, again, easier said than done.
– Well, it is but I think when we acknowledge these things, that is the first step for anything, right? Just to have that acknowledgement so we can then go, alright, what do I need to do now? And what is the most important to move me forward in whatever way because it’s just so easy to get stuck in procrastination when we have just overloaded with so many things to do and so many responsibilities across professional and personal life.
– Then that problem is, I was going to say is really amplified in the online space because we have something called, I call it infobesity, it’s this idea that in this online world, we are drowning in information constantly.
And so it is like getting a fire hydrant and squirting that fire hydrant at a little plastic cup and your brain is that little plastic cup trying to and catch the bit and it’s overflowing everywhere. And so that is happening all the time, and that’s why so many of us feel I call it techno stress, but why we often feel overloaded and overwhelmed and bombarded and burnt out. That is where we have to come back to where are my key priorities? What are the core tasks that I need to be doing? Is email really a core task for me all of the time? What do I need to be doing in my personal life that is a priority? because if we don’t prioritise those things, thanks to shared calendars now the things that other people can prioritise their needs above ours.
– Kristy, you have given absolute goal tonight, thank you so much. I can’t tell you, there’s just so much wisdom in everything you have given us. For those of you who are watching either now, or if you’re watching a little later with the recording, please feel free to put any comments, I’m sure Kristy would be happy to come back. I’m going to put her social media links in plus the URL to her productivity hacks course, which I really recommend we all do so that we can put that fortress around our focus.
If you would like to know who is coming up in our Wine and Wisdom shows, please DM me, and I will be able to put you on a list that gives you the notification for that. But Kristy, thank you so much. I think especially in 2020, this is the most relevant conversation.
For those who have children, of course, the kind of insights that you have been able to give them have been gold, but for all of us who are trying to live our best lives and be really focused on making big leaps in the world or just making tiny little steps every single day, we can’t do it unless we have a little bit better sleep, a little more of productivity and a greater depth of focus. So, I think everything that you have told us tonight, I would say to everybody, choose one of them, just take one thing and master that first and see how that has helped you and then perhaps choose something else.
– I agree completely. I often say don’t eat the whole watermelon, just take a small bite. Take a nibble, a little micro habit and then move on to something else and let those habits stack.
– Absolutely! Thank you everybody for being here tonight on a Wednesday night, I hope you have enjoyed it, I hope you have enjoyed the wisdom that Kristy’s been here sharing with us, and I really look forward to seeing you in a fortnight’s time. Goodnight.
– Thanks Heidi.
– Oh, I’m just looking cool there. All right, I’m trying to find the stop button for you, here we are done.
About Dr Kristy Goodwin:
Dr Kristy Goodwin is one of Australia’s leading digital wellbeing & peak performance experts (& mum who also deals with her kids’ techno-tantrums!) She’s a researcher, author, speaker & media commentator who provides science-backed solutions to optimise wellbeing & productivity in a digital world. Kristy draws on cutting-edge neuroscience & research to explain the profound impacts technology has on our performance & wellbeing. She provides realistic solutions to help executives, leaders & teams leverage the benefits technology offers us.
Kristy worked as an educator before becoming an academic, speaker & author. She’s worked with clients including Apple, Reserve Bank of Australia, Westfield, Bank of Queensland, Macquarie Bank, Foxtel, the National Broadband Network, McDonalds, NSW Department of Education & Optus. Kristy is regularly called upon by national media outlets for her opinion. Dr Kristy is a confident, compelling & highly relatable presenter who provides practical & realistic solutions to deal with digital dilemmas that put a dent in productivity & performance in the workplace. She’s spoken at national & international conferences, schools, workplaces & medical conferences throughout Australia. Kristy’s on a mission to empower people to work productively & sustainably in a digital, always-on world.
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