Some thoughts on academic and digital wellbeing

academic and digital wellbeing

Nasia Kotsiou and I wrote this two-part blog post, originally published in The Cambridge Researcher blog.

Introduction

Now that we are almost through the first term of an academic year that is unlike any other we’ve experienced before, we thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts and tips on how we can be mindful of our wellbeing. Almost all of us are working and living on screen more than we ever have before. How can we best balance our time online? How can we separate our work and personal lives, when they are increasingly entangled with seemingly everything occurring on our screens? In this two-part blog post, we wanted to discuss a few subjects related to digital wellbeing, starting from a discussion of what “wellbeing” actually means for us:

What Does Wellbeing Mean For Us? 

The term “wellbeing” seems to be everywhere lately. But it can be helpful for us to take a step back and think about what wellbeing might actually mean in our own lives. For example, one potentially helpful approach that we like is this values-based concept from the BBC Research and Development team: https://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/projects/digital-wellbeing.

That team identified 14 core values that characterise what is fundamentally important to people, such as belonging to a group, feeling impactful or receiving recognition (things that also apply to us during our academic careers). Wellbeing can be a complex set of related factors -in the sections below we’ll address a few of those factors with some tips to help you strike a healthy balance between work, rest, and everything else.

bbc digital wellbeing

How Do We Balance Work, Life, and Everything in-between? 

Almost all of us are working at home, which conversely means we are living at work. It’s difficult to create boundaries - whether that means physically being able to carve out a quiet and comfortable space for us to work, or to psychologically/mentally separate our work and the rest of our lives. Creating a regular routine and schedule for purely work or purely leisure time can be extremely helpful for that sense of boundedness. For some additional in-depth tips, you might have interest in this post from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/04/3-tips-to-avoid-wfh-burnout

Another thing to keep in mind is that we all tend to think about work -in particular unfinished work - even when we’re not actively working. While ruminations are hard to resist, here is a helpful article with some additional tips to help you mentally shift gears and get you break some of those thinking loops: “How to Stop Thinking About Work.”

Rest and Wellbeing

Perhaps one of the most important takeaways we hope you’ll keep in mind is that we all need breaks. Productivity experts often caution: you need a break before you break. Rest is a part of what keeps us productive, and it can make us more creative, too (“Neuroscience: Relaxing Makes You More Creative”).

Making time for activities or hobbies that genuinely bring us happiness is more important than ever. And just about anything will do - so find something that you look forward to doing, and which gives you a true mental break from your work. For example, if you spend a lot of time reading books and texts during your workday, try something that really lets you switch cognitive gears. Even better, try something screen-free, such as cooking, taking long walks, knitting, sending handwritten letters, or meditation.

Finally, take extra precaution with your nighttime screen habits. The blue light that comes from our phone, tablet, and computer screens can have an adverse affect on our sleep habits and how well we sleep, which is directly tied to our wellbeing: “Harvard: Blue Light Has a Dark Side.” Make an effort to reduce your blue light exposure around an  hour before going to bed - perhaps try reading on a Kindle (or even better, a print book) or listening to audiobooks to help you wind down.

In the second part of this post, we will focus on social and physical wellbeing, and share some tips on staying connected with others and fighting the “Zoom fatigue”.

Archives

Surprise me

About

I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

What I’m Reading Now:

Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg

Related Articles

Have questions or ideas or requests for working together?

Get in touch