Making the most of every moment: Pandora Sykes’ tips on how technology can help maximise life’s best bits

An image with five boxes with various information in each. Clockwise from the top left hand corner, the first box has the text "Don't waste a second in 2023". The second box is a full length rectangle, featuring Pandora Sykes who is sitting down in front of a bookcase with her chin resting on her hand. The box in the top right corner features two women looking at a Surface device. The box in the bottom right hand corner has blue text on a green background - the text says "Make more time for what matters most". The final box is in the bottom left hand corner and is a solid mauve colour.

The new year brings with it an opportunity to review what matters most to us, whether it’s where we invest our time or where we can make cost efficiencies. As we all navigate the current economic climate, the phrase, “time is money” has never felt more relevant. New research led by our Surface team reveals that, although Brits are looking to keep costs down, the one thing they won’t be cutting back on in 2023 is spending time with friends and family.

In fact, those surveyed confirmed that they consider time spent with loved ones the most valued and enjoyable, with almost two thirds of adults in the UK (62%) claiming it’s what they are most looking forward to in 2023. And half of us won’t sacrifice spending money on it (49%).

The survey also revealed that Brits spend 67 hours a week doing things they consider valuable alongside 24 hours a week doing things they consider a waste of time. The biggest time zappers include waiting for late people, queuing, looking for parking spaces, and ironing, with Brits spending up to a day a week doing them.

Technology can help us to live our lives more efficiently and can free us up to spend more time enjoying more of the of moments that really matter.

Spending time intentionally

As over three-quarters of British adults[1] own a laptop we spoke with Pandora Sykes, journalist, author, and broadcaster to find out her tips on how technology can help make the best use of our time.

“It’s the modern conundrum, feeling like we never have enough time,” says Pandora.  “But if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that spending our time intentionally on what feels meaningful to you, is the most valuable asset of all. That means something different to each of us: cooking, rambling, even just watching telly, if it’s something you want to carve out time for. It’s all about planning ahead and feeling restored in what you choose to do.”

“I’m always striving to find a healthy balance for how much time I spend on technology — it can make me feel jumpy and frazzled — but there are actually plenty of ways in which technology can aid us offline. Not so that you can be uber productive (another modern preoccupation!) but so that you can enjoy the time you do have, to the max, with the people you love the most.”

We’ve outlined some top tips to ensure that, like Pandora, you can use tech to maximise the moments that matter to you.

Tip 1: Be fully present in the moment pre-program time on devices for the family

We’ve all had those moments where we’ve had half an eye on our mobile or tablet or with a screen on in the background for the kids. But with family time a top priority for Brits, it’s important to establish  a routine when devices are in use.

“As a mother of a 3- and 4-year-old, I’m just beginning to learn about screen time and online safety,” explains Pandora. “My daughter would happily spend all day on the tablet if we let her! Microsoft Family Safety is a great feature, where we can pre-program how long she can be connected to her device. You can schedule different time allocations each day, for instance, we try and avoid tablet time during the week, but she has several stints on the weekend. I find that preparing or sharing the plan in advance helps with the meltdowns, especially when screen time is over!”

Set aside time to discuss limits, timings, and routines around device usage each week to manage expectations and feel good about the ways it’s being used by the whole family. This then means that when you come together, everyone can feel more present to make memories with loved ones without withdrawing into screen time.

Tip 2:  Set time aside to consciously decide what you are consuming

Did you know that Brits spend, on average,  11.5 days (about 1 and a half weeks) of their year travelling to and from work? It might be a prime opportunity to catch up on the things that you enjoy most

“More than ever, it feels like we are skimming the surface of culture and news,” Pandora reflects. “Instead of reading one paper, cover to cover, most of us now log on to 10 different sites and scan the headlines. To try and commit my attention to what I am reading, I now buy newspapers on the weekend and use Sunday evening to catch up fully on the week’s events – though others could easily do the same on their evening or morning commutes. I’ve also begun re-reading books I loved 10 or 20 years ago – in part a form of resistance to this idea that you have ‘done’ a book or a TV series. A book, a TV series, even a newspaper article, can always offer something new!”

For those commuting by train, have your seat booked and use this time to catch up on a film or television show pre-downloaded to your tablet or laptop. Not only will this make your time more enjoyable, but it will also free up your evenings to spend with loved ones, especially useful if you and your loved ones have different tastes in what you want to watch. With the new Surface Pro 9 5G, you also can access the internet from anywhere.

Tip 3: Stay targeted with online usage to ensure you feel rooted in your offline world.

Many of us use tech for work and leisure, so it’s important to ensure we ‘target’ our online time can make our lives a lot easier.

“I am not, as people younger than I would say, “extremely online”. Mostly that comes from the fact that I don’t feel good when I spend too much time looking at screens,” explains Pandora. “But I also hate wasting time (which feels so precious now), so I’m really targeted with my social media usage. I don’t keep the apps on my phone – instead I download them once or twice a week when I have content that I want to share or engage with. This helps me feel rooted in my offline world and means the time I do spend on online, is more engaged.”

Over half (57%) of those surveyed said they enjoy cooking for themselves or others, and the vast majority (77%) see it as a valuable use of their time. With so many apps available, it’s easy to get lost in a rabbit hole and spend hours scrolling. Being aware of your app and online usage is the first step to maximise your time effectively. With a wealth of resources online when it comes to recipes and beyond, why not flip your device into tablet mode and find a cook along video that shows you how to make new culinary masterpieces in real time.

Tip 4: Avoid distraction: Use settings like Focus Assist to help give peace of mind when multitasking

Many of us know that technology can help us plan better (55%), but only a small number of us use tech for things like budgeting or event planning within our personal lives. Even then, new messages and updates coming through can be distracting.

“Like many women, I am great at multitasking but can find it difficult to siphon off the noise in my brain and stay focused,” Pandora admits. “I have used all sorts of workflow apps in the past (I’ve grown trees, raised animals, etc.), and so I’m a fan of Focus settings, which integrates with the Clock and music app to create a ‘do not disturb’ session. Whether on your phone or Surface laptops, focus settings can be set up to come on automatically when tackling certain tasks (but I can customise it so as not to miss calls from my kids’ school), and then zones you out of it, once your session is up. It’s so |having someone do all the fiddly bits for you!”

When using your technology to tackle your life admin, organising or planning, make sure you set yourself up for success giving each task enough of your focus and not trying to do to many things at once, or letting too many things come into your window. Using settings like Focus Assist can prevent unnecessary distractions from popping up and stealing our attention away so you can achieve what you put your mind to.

Tip 5: Use your device for To Do lists — while offline

If the minute you hit the pillow, your mind starts throwing all the reminders of the day at you, using a list app offline can be a major help to offload pre-bedtime and get a good night’s sleep. According to the research, sleep is one of the most enjoyable activities, so it’s important to turn off when you’re tired.

“I cannot get enough of a to-do list. I have been writing lists about lists since I was 5 years old — not just of things I need to do, but books I want to read, presents I want to buy people, places I want to visit,” says Pandora. “I love nothing more than dreaming about the future! The problem is, I often remember something to add in the middle of the night  — and as an intermittent insomniac, my devices are firmly offline at that time. Microsoft To Do has been a game-changer for my scattered brain, as it means I can make changes to my (many) to-do lists when I’m offline, too. Which also means that I no longer have 48 little written lists all over the house, for my kids to steal and take to school.”

If you find worries swimming about your head before bed, jotting them down in an app such as Microsoft To-Do can help organise thoughts instantly. The added bonus is they will sync across all your devices in the morning. You can also use this function offline so you don’t get any notifications distracting you during quieter moments.


  • [Source1] Ownership of laptops in the UK 2021 | Statista 
  • The research was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Microsoft in October 2022, surveying 2,500+ UK adults, between ages 25-50.
  • The newest generation of Surface laptops and 2-in-1s with Windows 11 are designed to adapt to you at home, work, play, and everything in between.