The Big Do Conference: digital is like electricity

The Big Do Conference is a one day event held in Oxford for practitioners who are involved in managing digital projects. The day involved discussion and debate about day-to-day practises, as well as optional workshops, which allowed you to adapt the content of your day based on your own interests and professional profile.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the day overall, it was the discussion from Paul Boag (who was the last speaker of the day) which particularly resonated with me. His statement ‘digital is like electricity; it’s everywhere but we don’t really notice it, yet we do when it’s not there‘ was something that rang so true with me. Digital is everywhere. It’s available whenever we want it, shrouding us in its cloak of immediacy and immersion. It was after the discussion that I wondered, what it would be like to be without the internet — both in a personal setting or in a professional environment.

Digital is everywhere

For the digital warriors who are lucky enough to work in this fast moving, innovative industry, it’s hard to switch off and we don’t really switch off do we? It is a constant feature in our lives… we check our phones before we fall asleep and it’s the first we check when we wake up (what could possibly have happened whilst we’ve been sleeping?). Heading into the office is like Groundhog Day: I wake up, go online, stay online, go home, go online whilst I commute, eat, go online, turn on Netflix (I’m still online!) go online, sleep, repeat. Does this sound familiar to you? It was getting far too familiar for me.

In a world that’s always ‘on’, why does ‘off’ become so effective?

My phone and the internet was me, so I decided to make a conscious effort to change my Groundhog Day. I’ve set time boundaries: I try not to look at my phone past 9pm and completely switch it off pre 10pm bedtime. Thanks to my early night, for three days a week I get up at 5.30am to exercise (which is usually totally unheard of for me). I am NOT a morning person, or at least I wasn’t… but now I feel energised after exercise, I even manage to read a book on the train — yes an actual book, made of paper! Starting my day early means I’m in work for 8.30am, feeling energised, productive and most of all happy. The early mornings mean that I leave on time and with that I have an entire evening to do with what I wish!

The benefits of a new routine

I realised that my new routine was actually resulting in a better me. Gone are the days, when I crawled through the door to work at 9.30am and complained how tired I was, flinching with anxiety with an urgency to respond to every email in my inbox immediately.

My only concern with my new routine was… how far should my duty to be available stretch to? The problem was I am in charge of my own time and schedule, so I questioned whether it was ok that I would turn off to the world and go to bed. I wondered if I was still a good friend if I didn’t respond to a friend’s Whatsapp until my lunch hour the next day. My thought process was that if I was getting better quality of sleep, it would make me more productive at work and this was something that would impact my personal life – as I’m now not the tired ratty friend that vents to you over a G&T anymore.

Taking some of your life offline

So, it turns out I’m not the only one waxing lyrical about the benefits of sleep and taking some of my life offline. Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post) believes that sleep deprivation is ‘the root of all bad business decisions‘ whilst Sheryl Sandberg famously declined her first telephone interview with Zuckerburg, as he’d requested it for 9.30pm and she’d be in bed. Not to mention Anna Wintour who ensures she’s in bed for 10pm to make her 5am tennis class. Whilst I’m not quite ready for a swift back hand rally at 5am, all these women appear to have carved out hugely successful careers, brought up children and still they switch off.

I love my job, I feel passionate about my place of work, my colleagues and clients – but for them to get the best of me, I need to make time for myself. We’re all about sharing at Code, whether its learnings experiences, challenges or even simple thought-provoking ideas — so, this is something that I wanted to share.

I highly recommend evaluating your lifestyle to consider how much impact digital has on you. Whilst it’s still a big part of my life, it is now a tool I utilise rather than take for granted. The discussion at The Big Do Conference changed my perspective and from that I made very positive changes to my day-to-day life. Managing digital projects no longer meant that I had to immerse myself online 24/7 — I’m now getting the best of both worlds.

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