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The past two years have put our digital staying power to the test. Suddenly everything was digital – work, communication, networking, children’s birthday parties, you name it. On the outside, it seemed as if digital productivity had skyrocketed. In fact, we’ve had what Microsoft described as “high productivity behind an exhausted workforce” experience, with burnout affecting up to 76% of employees, managers and contractors.
Similar to cholesterol, I’ve found that productivity comes in two forms: “good productivity” and “poor productivity.” And much of the “bad” or toxic productivity in our working lives stems from mishandling digital endurance — that delicate balance between the digital intellect and human endurance.
As an entrepreneur running a SaaS company, I have a strong interest in digital technologies, but I am also an outspoken advocate for digital wellbeing. Here are some habits that are helping me and my team foster digital endurance and bring good productivity back into our work lives.
Invest in digital monogamy
Psychologist James Hollis said that important decisions should be made based on a key question: “Will this choice make me bigger or smaller?” When choosing digital tools for me or the team, I ask a similar question: Will this technology increase our energy resources or decrease?
For example, we overhauled our technology stack and made sure all office, remote, and hybrid workers are on the same page. I also listened carefully to the feedback and discussed which digital solutions hinder productivity or our mental health. As a result, communication disruptions decreased compared to pre-pandemic times, urgent information was never lost, and our global team was literally on the same page – from product development to daily meetings, team building to chill time.
The lesson extends to any digital relationship where entrepreneurs want to expand (and thus conserve) energy. Whether you’re a solopreneur or a team, one is often better than two when it comes to digital wellbeing. Redefine your technology stack, listen to feedback and benefit from inclusive technologies that tick multiple boxes.
Related: Work-life balance is essential for entrepreneurs
Become a learner by experience
Experiential learning places the learner in a hands-on learning environment, as opposed to the traditional, theoretically rooted model of learning. It encompasses practical experience, critical thinking, problem solving and emotional intelligence – skills that are characteristic of entrepreneurial leadership.
It doesn’t work with experiential learning What You learn – it can be anything from a foreign language to MVP development – but how you learn it Some of the hallmarks of experiential learning are problem-based learning (honing a skill by solving a specific real-world challenge), hands-on internships, community learning, and mentoring. What all these models have in common is live experience sharing and empowerment.
How does this relate to digital burnout? Both leadership experience and research show that we are at our healthiest and happiest when challenged with complex yet achievable tasks in a supportive community environment. Experiential learning challenges entrepreneurs to grow in new directions while shifting focus from digital intellect to personal IQ and EQ development.
Rely on adaptive planning
It is generally accepted that time invested in planning is time saved in execution. But to reclaim those lost hours, recover from digital exhaustion, and mentally align with long-term goals, entrepreneurs need to do more than create an agenda.
Adaptive planning works best in the so-called “BANI” (Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear, Incomprehensible) environment that we have in 2022. Applicable in numerous fields from software delivery to project management to people management, adaptive planning is a mindset that prioritizes situational, collaborative solutions that eliminate challenges rather than mask them, including with technology.
For example, as digital burnout swept the world in 2020-21, our teams found that productivity was checkmated between “checkerboard” online meetings (30-minute meetings followed by 30-minute intervals) and the reality of working at home. Regular top-down planning would lead me to blame the crisis realities and keep things under tight executive control. An adaptive planning mentality inspired our distributed team to openly communicate issues, coordinate personal schedules and create a flexible agenda that prevented burnout, improved mental health and productivity.
Related: Work-life balance is easy. To be successful at work, you get a life.
Start a whole new routine in 66 days
Most entrepreneurs would argue that we don’t have time to fit new routines into crowded schedules. As I always say, we spend about 120 hours awake a week, and dedicating two or three to a new routine, like physical activity, isn’t much.
As the body’s natural biochemical energy source, exercise is a remedy for digital burnout. If I’m doing triathlon training after a day of work running a tech company, I’m not preparing for the Ironman race. The hour I spend grooming allows me to work a few more hours in the evening (priceless for entrepreneurs) without the otherwise inevitable feeling of digital exhaustion. But it’s not just me. In 2022, our company is investing in reimbursement for fitness and gym subscriptions to the team, precisely because we know that digital proactivity can only go hand-in-hand with digital wellness.
Benefit from the fact that it only takes 66 days to turn a new routine into a habit. No matter what detox routine you start today – whether physical (exercise) or mental (e.g. meditation, journaling, a creative hobby, a new hard or soft skill), this dedication will not only help you to master the digital to pull the plug, but to change your life in a more meaningful and productive way – in the only meaningful sense of the word.
See also: 7 Reasons Entrepreneurs Need to Exercise