I blame tech fatigue for the lack of a clever subject line

Ideas for preventing boredom and burnout, whether you work in the tech industry or are a consumer.

Good Tuesday afternoon,

You are viewing this article on some sort of a digital device. Many of you already have spent hours today engaging with digital devices. Some have helped children distance learn with digital devices. And a good portion of you will spend at least some leisure time tonight plugged into a phone, computer, or video game, for entertainment, communicating, or perhaps online shopping.

Welcome to the age of tech fatigue, exacerbated by the increase in necessary tech interactions caused by stay-at-home orders. The phenomenon can cause physical and mental tiredness, but also a general lack of interest in technology and pursuing tech-based activities. Tech fatigue raises stress levels and can be a productivity killer. Employees suffering from it risk burnout.

The feeling can even manifest in people who themselves work in tech. But those in the industry sometimes suffer another layer of tech fatigue in which every new technological idea feels old and dumb, as explained by TechCrunch. It can create a sense of impostor syndrome, boredom, and lack of motivation.

This type of tech fatigue can also affect consumers who are constantly bombarded with messaging about “brand new” apps, devices, services, IoT advances, etc., according to Make Tech Easier. It desensitizes people and then they tune out. This can contribute to a feedback cycle in which tech employees sense the public boredom and their own apathy and disinterest toward their work grows.

So can anything be done to lessen tech fatigue’s negative effects? In short, yes.

I’ve scoured the internet — contributing to my own tech fatigue — to bring you answers. Here is some general advice to alleviate tech fatigue, as well as advice specifically for those in the industry who might experience it more deeply:

  • Take a break. This seems obvious, but it can be the hardest thing to do. Working in an office or innovator space naturally prompts us to change tasks or take breaks throughout the workday. Those cues are gone for the millions of people suddenly forced to work from home, but it’s still important to physically remove yourself from technology-based tasks and recharge.
  • Hard stop. Related to taking breaks during the workday, be sure to plan a hard stop to each workday. Being house-bound under pandemic regulations makes it easier for working hours to bleed into much needed off-time. In your leisure hours, try to spend at least some time daily doing a hobby that does not involve technological devices or reading news about tech and industry advances.
  • Not every call needs video. The advice is specific to video calls, but it’s worth noting because of the current spike in video chatting both for work and social purposes and the increase in reports of “Zoom fatigue.” Researchers find that people focus more during video chats than phone calls, which can be draining, the BBC reports. There is also more of a performance element in which people innately feel pressure to be more “on” because physical cues — body language, voice tone, expressions — are much more subtle in-person and technology diminishes or eliminates those cues. The negative aspects are causing backlash and increasing consumer disengagement. Reduce the number of video calls you accept, or join the calls with voice only and turn off your camera. Get comfortable dipping out of video calls that run unnecessarily long. Video calls can be extremely useful, but as with everything, they have their time and place.
  • Consolidate, automate, and negotiate. Running a business — especially a small startup — involves a lot of tasks that entrepreneurs take on themselves. Where possible, consolidate and automate any business tasks not directly related to product or service development. That could be billing, payments, HR, and communications, or even technical tests. Or consider negotiating with contractors for support, such as for IT or coding jobs. Eliminating these tasks from your schedule gives more time for R&D and business development, and it lessens the risk of demotivation due to tech fatigue.
  • Remember why you wanted to be in tech in the first place. Doubt can be a demotivating force and is enhanced by tech fatigue, but you have to regain your confidence to make progress. Think about what first inspired you to pursue a tech career and about the progress you have made. Know that your ideas have merit, even if they might seem similar to others.

How are you trying to fight tech fatigue? I’ll share some reader tips in a future newsletter issue. Email me at katie@centered.tech or connect on Twitter @centereddotcom.

Other stories we’re watching:

  • Equilibria, a Chicago startup offering CBD products for women, raised its first round of funding to expand and launch new products. (Chicago Inno)
  • Detroit-based Grand Circus, a learning institution focused on tech, is offering 50% off coding bootcamp tuition for people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. (FOX 2 Detroit)
  • North Dakota has partnered with the makers of the Bison Tracker app — a check-in platform connecting North Dakota State University fans — on a contact tracing app to combat COVID-19. (North Dakota State Government)

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