Using an iPad at bedtime? How's your sleep?

There is a growing body of evidence that using an electronic device like an iPad before sleep isn’t good for your sleep. The issue is with devices that use a screen that shines light at you.

A recent report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the Unites States of America under the title Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness defines the significance of the problem like this:

The use of light-emitting electronic devices for reading, communication, and entertainment has greatly increased recently. We found that the use of these devices before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning. Use of light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime also increases alertness at that time, which may lead users to delay bedtime at home. Overall, we found that the use of portable light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime has biological effects that may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms, both of which can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety.**

In other words, that electronic device shining light at you is seriously messing with your sleep.

The more I read about sleep the more I think that we are causing ourselves all sorts of damage by the ways we mess about with it.

Here’s some advice from the NHS on sleep hygiene:

Also reported here:

**highlight mine

You're being distracted by your mobile phone, even though you aren't using it!

This is the abstract from a report which was recently published in Social Psychology:

Research consistently demonstrates the active use of cell phones, whether talking or texting, to be distracting and contributes to diminished performance when multitasking (e.g., distracted driving or walking). Recent research also has indicated that simply the presence of a cell phone and what it might represent (i.e., social connections, broader social network, etc.) can be similarly distracting and have negative consequences in a social interaction. Results of two studies reported here provide further evidence that the ‘‘mere presence’’ of a cell phone may be sufficiently distracting to produce diminished attention and deficits in task-performance, especially for tasks with greater attentional and cognitive demands. The implications for such an unintended negative consequence may be quite wide-ranging (e.g., productivity in school and the work place).

Just the “mere presence” of the phone may be enough for you to be distracted from that really important task that you are doing – like driving, or reviewing that multi-million pound deal, or researching a cure for cancer, or learning how to be the next great coder, or caring for your friends and family.

I’m sitting here with two mobile phones on my desk so this morning I’m going to try an experiment. The phones are going in a drawer and I’ll see whether I feel any less distracted than I normally do, hopefully this is enough to remove them from “mere presence”. Perhaps this will become a new way of working. I’m still going to allow audio distractions from someone ringing me because that’s part of the important job, but I’m going to see if I can focus a bit more by removing this needless distraction.

Being Present: Downside the App

How often do you get to meet a bunch of friends only for everyone to spend all of their time distracted by their phones.

Well now, as the saying goes, there’s an app for that. It’s called Downside and it turns the challenge of staying in the present into a game:

Business Mobility and the Work/Life Balance Paradox (or Contradiction)

The following is an extract from this report: Next-Generation Knowledge Workers – Accelerating the Disruption in Business Mobility by Cisco:
Jimmy does BlackBerry

The revolution in business mobility is ongoing and constantly changing, and we are in the middle of what we see as a four-stage process (“Forming,” “Storming,” “Norming,” and “Performing”). Each phase has been driven forward by changes in “DNA,” all of which are driving us toward the next phase.

An indication of business mobility’s importance in the current “Storming” phase can be seen in the following: 40 percent of our respondents believe that without their devices, they could not function more than one hour without their jobs being impacted. And approximately 50 percent of mobile-enabled workers have seen productivity gains in the past two years.

As work responsibilities become ever more demanding and time consuming, many people fear an encroachment on their home lives and free time. Looking ahead, our survey respondents see mobile technology becoming increasingly important as they continue the everyday battle to achieve work/life harmony. More than 50 percent see mobile devices as a way to improve their work/life balance.

As for increased freedom and mobility, more than 30 percent of our respondents currently work from home regularly. Another 30 percent expect to be working more from home in the future.

A key element in the juggling of work and life is time. More than 30 percent of our respondents believe that they have been working longer hours; yet more than 40 percent feel they have more control over how, when, and where they work.

I’m sure that these results are what people told Cisco, but what an intriguing set of paradoxical, or even contradictory, views.

Paradox: A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

Contradiction: A combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another.

Paradox or contradiction? Mobile business technology enables improvements in productivity, but has facilitated a culture that is dependent upon immediate responses effectively tethering us to our mobile devices. But reactionary working is rarely productive working. Other people propose scheduled periods of disconnection in order to find a place to ‘reset the soul’.

Paradox or contradiction? Mobile business technology has improved our work/life balance, but has facilitated longer working hours from people who believe that they have more control over how, when and where they work. Long working hours are linked to depression, which can’t be good for anyone’s work/life balance, and how real is that control anyway? People regularly speak of manager mis-trust and feeling like they are ‘out of sight – out of mind’. Yet telecommuting is consistently ranked high on people’s list of job requirements with some preferring it over salary.

Is the news making you sad?

An interesting article in The Guardian today – News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier. It’s based on a book by Rolf Dobelli called the Art of Thinking Clearly.

Putting aside the irony of a newspaper producing an article that is saying that news is bad for you, it raises some interesting points.

Some of what it is saying is drawing on the same sources and thinking that have driven many of my Information Addiction posts, but it goes further to focus in on news itself:

We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.

The article goes on to describe that:

  • News misleads – making us irrational.
  • News is irrelevant – of all of that news out there a tiny amount has any direct impact on us individually.
  • News has no explanatory power – “News items are bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world.”
  • News is toxic to your body – by constantly triggering the limbic system and releasing cortisol.
  • News increases cognitive errors – giving us confirmation bias. “In the words of Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.””
  • News inhibits thinking – because it impacts our ability to concentrate.
  • News works like a drug – something we’ve seen a number of times on this site.
  • News wastes time – back to the point about relevance, if it’s not relevant why spend time on it.
  • News kills creativity – “I don’t know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs.”

This is where I need to admit to being a bit of a news junkie, but also knowing that it’s not doing me any good.

You might have noticed that the amount I’ve been writing has dropped off in recent months, that’s partly because I’ve spent too much time focussing on the news interrupts and not enough time on thinking and reflecting. That’s partly down to a modern workplace challenge where immediacy is king, but it’s also down to my working habits.

How about you?

Waking up with you Facebook

One of the regular themes on this blog is Information Addiction and our ever present need to be connected.
Loch Creran
There’s more evidence this week about just how connected we are, this time focussed on Facebook mobile usage and a report from IDC:

Depending on your perspective, many of the results are either depressing or confirm what you knew all along. For example, it seems that 79% of smartphone users reach for their devices within 15 minutes of waking up. A clear majority — 62% — don’t even wait 15 minutes, and grab their phones immediately. (Among 18-24 year olds, the numbers rise to 89% and 74%.)

via Mashable.

That’s right, people can’t even wait to go through their morning routine before diving in – wake-up and connect. But it’s not just about the speed of connection, it’s also about the frequency of connection, the average is 14 times a day rising to nearly 18 times a day at the weekend just for Facebook.

According to the report, the average daily time on Facebook on a smartphone is 32 min 51 sec, the total daily time communicating on a smartphone is 131 min 43 sec. That’s right, over 2 hours every day on a smartphone.

Smartphones are powerful tools that are changing the way that we interact. What concerns me is that I don’t think most people recognise it. The smartphone is only just the start of it, watch the Google Glass backlash build even before the product has been released.

Do you need a contract with your smartphone?

A number of sources have covered this story over the last few days:

My initial response on seeing the headlines was that this was some over-protective American parent who had no clue about how the real world worked (in the UK we always assume that stories like this are American). An 18-point contract? Are you mad?

Having read through the contract my opinion has completely reversed (apart from it being American, of course). This is a Mom who has thought a lot about the way that we interact with technology, the Internet, the dangers of being a teenager and the impact of all of those upon us.

If more of us followed more of these rules then many of us would be in a much better place.

Here’s the full list:

1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?

2. I will always know the password.

3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.

4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.

5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.

7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.

8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.

10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person ? preferably me or your father.

11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.

13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.

14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO — fear of missing out.

15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.

16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.

18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. Merry Christmas!



How many of these would make it into the contract you would write for yourself?

I particularly liked this one:

14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO — fear of missing out.

For me the the Christmas and New Year break was an opportunity for another Internet and always-on detox. It felt great to be walking around the Lake District without anything to distract me from taking in the world around me (I didn’t even have a camera as it’s at the repairers).

You might think that a contract is a bit over-the-top but I like the idea, it’s all too easy to let our standards slip over time.

Cisco Connected World Techology Report

Over the last few years Cisco have produced a report on the changing attitude of people to being permanently connected.

This years report – 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report – has just been released. The report is based on two surveys, one looking into the attitudes of Gen Y, and the other looking at the attitude of IT Professionals.

At the heart of this year’s study is the smartphone and the constant connectivity it provides to work, entertainment, shopping, and friends. There are 206 bones in the human body, and the smartphone should be considered the 207th bone for Generation Y. They view smartphones as an appendage to their beings — an indispensable part of their lives, and yet they are concerned about data management and Internet security.

Who knew that 43% of British Gen Y always check there smart-phone as part of their morning ritual alongside brushing there teeth? It wasn’t much of a surprise to me having seen how many of them check their smart phone while stood at the latrine at work! The French are far less bothered about such things with only 29% always checking. It’s interesting that women are significantly more driven to be connected with 85% of them being compulsive checkers; it’s only 63% of men.

There’s a fun visualisation that enables you to calculate your data footprint, I apparently have a highly connected lifestyle. As you might expect there’s also a report highlighting some of the statistics and drawing some conclusions along with the seemingly mandatory set of Infographics including an interactive one showing the results for the different countries that took part.

The world is changing fast, there are a lot of people who don’t realise how fast.

My web detox: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC

The technology correspondent for the BBC, Rory Cellan-Jones, was challenged to a 24 hour detox from the Internet (interestingly for a series titled Lonely London). It’s a really facinating read from someone who is clearly connected for every waking hour.

How does he start his detox, he announces it on twitter of course:

My web detox

Rory then goes on to describe the highs and lows of being disconnected with some really interesting findings.

Having done this type of thing myself I think that Rory’s conclusion is similar to my own experience:

After a few days back online and sometime for reflection, I have come to a rather different conclusion. I now realise that constant connectivity, while vital for my job, has plenty of negative aspects. It shortens your attention span and could prevent you from having any sense of perspective about what is important and what isn’t. So maybe a web detox is something we should all try from time to time.

How do you think you would cope with a 24 hour detox?

Thinking about information as we do food?

I’ve written a number of times here about information overload, information addiction and information management. Here are a few of the more popular ones:

In this TED talk JP Rangaswami thinks about the parallels between food cultivation, preparation and consumption and information cultivation, preparation and consumption:

JP Rangaswami: Information is food

Now there’s some food for thought!

Some ramblings that come to mind:

  • I too am someone who’s waist is larger than it should be because my food diet isn’t what it should be. I heavily suspect that my information diet is likewise on the over-eating side of things. There’s probably a more healthy information diet somewhere that I should be following.
  • Although, the thought that there may, one day, be the equivalent of the grapefruit diet for information workers makes me shudder.
  • I snack more when I work from home because the kitchen is very close. The information kitchen is getting close to being everywhere which is why we are finding it increasingly difficult to stop snacking.
  • I like the creative process of cooking, but I’m no master-chef. Pulling together different pieces of information to create something is really rewarding, but the things I see other people doing amazes me.
  • I quite like fish and chips, it’s not the most healthy food, but it’s very enjoyable. There are some people that I follow on twitter who are like fish and chips.
  • If exercise helps the body to burn food energy, what is it that helps the brain burn information energy?

How would you answer JP Rangaswami’s question: "If you began to think of all the information that you consume the way you think of food, what would you do differently?"

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