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August 15, 2016updated 17 Oct 2016 11:53am

Digital detox or how to take an email holiday

By John Oates

Ofcom’s annual research into UK communication trends revealed that a growing number of people are choosing to take ‘time outs’ from any online activity.

Firstly though there were some interesting general trends – generation mobile is a real thing – more people now have smartphones than laptops and over a third of people consider their phone their primary connection to the internet.

Most people use social media at least once a week, a staggering 99 per cent of 16-24 year olds do so. But even for the over-65s the figure is still a surprising 24 per cent.

Ofcom found that nine out of ten UK citizens are now online every day of the week.

But Ofcom’s researchers found all this connectivity is leading to a counter reaction – 15m people in the UK have decided to take themselves offline for a ‘digital detox’.

Business users have had to wrestle with always being connected for longer than the rest of the population and aren’t always able to just switch off.

But business trainers have long promoted the idea of at least a partial digital switch off – and a third of those questioned by Ofcom said a digital switch-off made them more productive.

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The idea of turning off email alerts while finishing a big piece of work is not new – there are even browser add-ons which will switch off internet access for a pre-determined period or restrict access to certain websites.

Many of us would be worried by a longer switch off. But a holiday is the perfect time to try it.

Of course depending on your destination you might not even have the choice – there are still plenty of places to go which don’t have Wi-Fi or even mobile phone coverage.

The difficulty for business users is not switching off, it is switching back on again.

How do you deal with the inevitable backlog of emails when you switch back on?

One radical solution is to take a five minute scroll through your in-box for messages which demand immediate action.

Once you’ve dealt with this small group you need to be brave – select all the remaining mails and put them into a new folder.

And then forget all about them and get on with your day.

If they are important or really need your attention the sender will mail you again and you can dig out their original message.

But the reality is that the vast majority will need no further action.

And you might be able to extend that feeling of holiday relaxation for just a little bit longer.

There’s more from Ofcom here:

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