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Book Review

Your Happiness Was Hacked: Book Review

By Abhijit Bhaduri

Last week I ran a two-day workshop for seventy senior leaders of a global automobile giant. The CHRO volunteered to have a “distraction-free” workshop by putting his mobile out of reach in one corner of the conference hall. He then invited his colleagues to do the same and they followed. The result was that this large group of leaders was fully present and engaged right through the two days and nothing went wrong. The leaders would connect back with their teams during the breaks.

Someone joked that this simple practice was an exercise in teaching everyone how to empower and delegate their teams. While the mobile connects us to the world, it also distracts, interrupts and comes in the way of doing “deep work”. People check emails during meetings, workshops and even during in-person meetings. To recover from an interruption during deep work, it takes 23 minutes to recover our concentration to the level we were at before the interruption. I wish the authors had put together a handy list of these data-points the readers could use too.

Happiness Gained Happiness LostHappiness Hacked, sketchnote

Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever have co-authored “Your Happiness Was Hacked”. The book is a compelling read about the dark side of technology. Bain and Company found that most mid-level managers spend almost 21 hours per week in meetings another 11 hours in processing email and fifteen hours a week to do thoughtful, deep work. The deluge of information pouring in constantly causes technostress and blurs the line between work and home. Tech makes it convenient to connect and its ease of use has changed how we work. No one speaks enough about the way tech runs our lives.

Children are spending fifty percent less time playing outdoors than their parents. The children spend less time playing with other children and more time with screens. The result is a start-up called Tinkergarten uses web-based content to train teachers on how to lead outdoor play!!

Online dating apps are letting the people look for mates anywhere in the world. But abundance of choice leads us to look at every dating profile with an eye to evaluate, not engage. Even when we find someone interesting, we keep wondering if someone more interesting was just one more swipe away.

Tech erodes the core pillars of happiness: sleep and health. Tech companies use “behavior design” to keep us continually hooked. Whether it is binge watching or the addiction of social approval when we share stuff on social media, tech has a way of keep us from unshackling ourselves.

The real value of the book lies not in telling us the dark side of tech but in letting us know simple ways of regaining control of our lives. If you scoffed at the startup that trains teachers on how to lead outdoor play, then remember, we all (I certainly would top that list) could do with some help too. I certainly hope that when you attend the next workshop, conference or meeting, you will keep the phone away where it is not visible, because even when you keep it turned upside down on the table, it impacts your concentration. It is time to regain control. You can start by regaining control.

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