As 2016 draws to a close and the new year approaches, many of us are trying to process everything that has gone down over the past twelve months. Like many people I know, I’ve found 2016 particularly challenging. That’s not to say that it’s been without its professional successes or happy personal moments – I’ve been lucky enough to experience plenty of both. But overall, this year was hard. And it felt it.

On a personal level, I recognise that that’s partly a reflection of my own experiences of loss and change. But I also believe there’s a wider sense of grief that many people are experiencing right now: A loss of innocence. An acknowledgement that the world has changed, is changing, and will continue to change far more rapidly that we can understand, gauge, or predict. And that now, more than ever, it’s solely our responsibility to protect the wellbeing of ourselves and the people around us. We can’t trust anyone else to guide the ship. Self-preservation is the name of the game.

This general mood seems to have prompted a dynamic (and in many cases, heartening) spectrum of responses, from activism to protest to self-reflection. One of the most notable outcomes has been a consensus that we seriously need to rethink our respective relationships with technology. Many of us have felt the need to create some boundaries around social media and internet usage in the past, but in 2016 this has taken on a new, more urgent tone. While I still enjoy Instagram and Twitter for a multitude of reasons, I do feel very strongly that it’s time to take stock of my virtual life and finally make some small but crucial adjustments.

As I contemplate the new year that awaits and the changes I want to make in its course, my thoughts are less about achieving chiseled abs or new levels of hyper-productivity than in Decembers gone by. Instead, I’m thinking about laying the foundations for something much less tangible, but far more profound. I’m wondering how will I preserve my emotional and psychological health in the unstable global era that we find ourselves in, so that I can live my life with utmost joy and creativity – and, more crucially, do my part to help others do the same.

Needless to say, the ‘solution’ for this dilemma hasn’t felt obvious. But again, my relationship with technology feels like a good place to start. If you feel the same (and perhaps you don’t; perhaps you’re reading this and thinking: ‘What a crackpot’, in which case I applaud your optimism and mental fortitude!) then hopefully you’ll find the notes below of some use. These are the questions I’m asking myself right now, and the responses I’m using to shape my plan of action. I hope that they help you to do the same.


  • Which of your technology habits most frequently creates anxiety for you? Is it the amount of time you spend online, or the things you’re looking at? (Likely it's both, but try to pinpoint the source of discomfort as accurately as you can).
  • Think back over the past week. Was there a particularly negative feeling you experienced directly in relation to something you saw or read online that particularly altered your mood? Trace the steps of that experience. How can you minimise repeat scenarios in the future?
  • How is social media beneficial and pleasurable for you? How can you continue to enjoy these benefits, without falling prey to the aspects you listed above?
  • How do you need to use social media for your career? Are there ways you can organise yourself so that you can do this more efficiently and effectively? Or perhaps outsource it entirely?
  • When was a time you regretted oversharing some aspect of your personal life online? What led you to do that? How can you avoid doing it again?
  • How much time (honestly!) do you spend looking at your phone each day? Are you comfortable with that number? If not, how can you reduce it?
  • Which ‘offline’ activity brings you most satisfaction and pleasure? How can you incorporate more of it into your daily life?


Attend to the basics: Turn off notifications. Change email from push to pull.

Close your Gmail tab while you’re working. Check email at three, pre-defined times a day.

Leave your phone in your bag when:
    •    At the office.
    •    In company.
    •    Eating meals.
    •    In the bathroom.
    •    In the bedroom.

No, but really: no phone in bed. Charge it outside of your room. Buy an alarm clock.

Create a social media schedule for your work. Try not to divert from this.

Once a week, leave the house without your phone. Go and get a coffee for an hour. The world won’t end.

Creation before consumption. Don’t read any emails, news stories, or text messages until you’ve created one thing for yourself each morning. Even if it’s just your breakfast.

Call sometimes. Text less.

Don’t use your phone when you’re waiting or in short haul transit, and avoid the temptation to do so. I.e. Before you leave your house for a commute, put on a podcast and then tuck your phone away in your bag, out of hand's reach.

Replace a negative habit with a positive goal. Instead of thinking: "I won’t look at my phone after 8pm", dedicate your evenings to reading, watching movies, or cooking. Staying mindful of the time you regain for pleasure will galvanise you to reduce the time spent online.

Stop comparing: Followers, number of posts, general volume of content. This is applicable to both business and life. Yes, social media is an essential career tool. No, you don’t have to adopt the aggressive 'sharing' protocol you’ve read about on some random marketing website. Don’t want to post 4 times a day? Don’t post 4 times a day. Simple.

Set your own rules. Then live by them.

Phoebe Lovatt5 Comments