Tackling digital overload: Tips from Reuters journalists
Tuesday 10 July 2018
During the many conversations I’ve had with Reuters journalists about our mental health and wellbeing initiatives, one issue has come up repeatedly - digital overload. How can we possibly switch off amid the incessant beeping of WhatsApp groups and news monitoring applications while at the same time answering emails from the moment we wake to when we sleep?
I recently wrote an internal blog about the issue, inviting my colleagues to come up with suggestions on how to tame the digital overload. Here’s a sample of some of the tips, which are probably useful for other occupations:
- Use “Rules” in Outlook to handle the flow of emails. Sort e-mails by senders into folders.
- Don’t send e-mails on weekends or evenings if it can be avoided. The very act of opening an e-mail on a weekend for a recipient puts them in work mode.
- Use the "Delay Delivery" function in Outlook - effectively an embargo for your e-mail. This allows you to click "Send" and have that task checked off your to-do list, but not interfere with the recipient’s personal time. It can be set to send at the start of business hours the next business day. And if you're offline and that doesn't work, you can always save it as a draft and send later.
- It’s okay to tell your manager/colleagues that you won’t see e-mails on the weekend - if it’s an emergency, they can call.
- Use your Out-Of-Office function on e-mail when on leave, taking a day off, on a reporting assignment or on a national holiday.
The biggest battle is probably with ourselves and our addictive compulsion to check mail and messages. Make a conscious decision to take control of your digital consumption
- WhatsApp has silent functions. You can mute your groups, while hearing beeps from your best contact, and still have your phone by your bed in case of an emergency.
- When sending a WhatsApp message, don’t break it into a series of breathless chunks.
- Don’t send voice messages via WhatsApp, they take longer to listen to than reading a message.
- If you’re not on a shift or having a day off/weekend, switch off your WhatsApp notifications.
- Keep your phone at a distance. Set it on a shelf, turn the ringer on and think of it as a landline.
- Get a personal phone so you can turn your work phone off during days off. Give the personal number to a limited number of colleagues who can reach you in an emergency.
- Uninstall work e-mail from your phone while on vacation and leave WhatsApp groups so as not to be disturbed
- Never disturb a colleague on leave unless it’s an absolute emergency.
- Set up an out-of-office reply that lets people know you probably won’t respond to all messages during your absence, and that they should e-mail you again after a certain date if they need a reply. Include alternate contacts in your out-of-office message.
- Don’t use work e-mail for travel bookings/information.
The biggest battle is probably with ourselves and our addictive compulsion to check mail and messages. Make a conscious decision to take control of your digital consumption.
Dean Yates is a former correspondent who is now Reuters' journalist mental health and wellbeing advocate. ■