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Could decluttering your digital life admin improve your mental health?

Digital life admin is having an impact on our mental health. (Getty Images)
Digital life admin is having an impact on our mental health. (Getty Images)

From the 24/7 bombardment of emails, to the non-stop pinging of messages on the unlimited WhatsApp groups we all belong to, notifications someone has liked your post to a DM on Slack about the leaving drinks you have tonight, there's little doubt our digital life admin is out of control right now.

Even as you're reading this article it is likely you've received at least a couple of messages on the parents group about somebody's lost PE kit!

Of course, the whereabouts of some sweaty shorts is not necessarily urgent, but it is certainly distracting and demanding of our immediate attention. It's little wonder, therefore, that keeping on top of it all is taking its toll on our mental health.

Recent research from Admiral MultiCover found that boring but essential life admin tasks can take up an incredible 13 days a year of Brits’ valuable time.

A further study, by Simplyhealth, found that Brits have an average of four hours’ worth of admin to complete, with a third of the nation confessing the outstanding tasks cause them undue stress.

"In our fast-paced digital age, the relentless barrage of notifications and the societal expectation to stay constantly connected can lead to a unique form of mental fatigue and stress," explains psychologist Barbara Santini.

Constantly having to respond to digital demands is making Brits stressed. (Getty Images)
Constantly having to respond to digital demands is making Brits stressed. (Getty Images)

In order to understand the mental toll this is taking on our wellbeing, first we need to understand why this aspect of modern life feels so particularly overwhelming right now.

The digital world has erased the boundaries between different spheres of our lives," explains Santini. "Work, social interactions, and personal responsibilities blur together in a continuous stream of digital communication.

Each alert or new message, Santini says, can act like a micro-task, demanding attention and a mental shift.

"This constant switching of contexts is mentally taxing, not to mention the emotional labour involved in managing these interactions. It's a recipe for mental overload, leading to feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and in some cases, burnout."

The impact this digital onslaught has on our health is multifaceted. "Psychologically, it fragments our attention, making deep, focused work more challenging and exhausting. Emotionally, it can lead to a persistent sense of inadequacy, as if we're always lagging behind. Socially, it can create tensions in relationships as we struggle to balance digital responsiveness with physical presence."

The constant barrage of digital life admin is taking its toll on our mental wellbeing. (Getty Images)
The constant barrage of digital life admin is taking its toll on our mental wellbeing. (Getty Images)

How decluttering your life admin can improve mental health

According to Santini decluttering our life administration isn't just about reducing tasks; it's about creating mental space and fostering a sense of control. "The following strategies are not just practical steps but pathways to mental liberation," she adds.

Intentionally prioritise

Recognise that not all digital interactions are equal. "Rank them based on their actual impact on your life," Santini suggests. "This conscious prioritisation reduces the mental load and clarifies what truly deserves your attention."

Connect with your values and make changes accordingly

Consider whether the way you're managing your interactions is making you unhappy. "Think about what's important to you," advises Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. "Understanding your values can help you decide when it's important to reply quickly and when it can wait."

Practice mindful scheduling

Allocate specific times for checking emails and messages. "This isn't just about time management; it's about creating a mental space where you're not under constant siege by digital demands," Santinexplains.

Embrace 'non-responsiveness'

There's a societal pressure to respond instantly. Challenge this norm. "Give yourself permission to not respond immediately," Santini says. "This shift in mindset can be incredibly liberating."

Setting digital boundaries is one way of escaping the life admin mental load. (Getty Images)
Setting digital boundaries is one way of escaping the life admin mental load. (Getty Images)

Set technological boundaries

Utilise features like 'Do Not Disturb', app limits, and notification customisations. "Technology should be a tool, not a tyrant," Santini points out.

Undergo digital rituals

By regularly engaging in digital detoxes. "Whether it's a daily hour away from screens or a weekend tech break, these rituals can significantly decrease stress and improve mental clarity.

Find a better life admin balance

Santini says putting these strategies in place goes beyond mere task management. "They're about reclaiming your mental space, reducing cognitive overload, and fostering a healthier relationship with digital communication," she says.

"In the long run, these practices contribute to improved mental health, higher productivity, and a more balanced life."

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