You just sat down at your desk and are ready to tackle that report. You log into your computer, check Slack and your email, get distracted by a New York Times update on your phone, scroll through some tweets, and read an article about “7 Superfoods That Help with Focus.” You respond to a text, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to start the report before a coworker calls or another email warrants a response.
On average it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds for someone to get back on task once interrupted.
Digital distraction is everywhere, stealing away your time, focus, and productivity. Push-notifications and timelines help us feel connected and informed, but not always at the right times with the right information.
So why is it so hard to stay on task?
- Part of the problem is that we are biased toward action. We want to feel busy even if we are achieving less. We answer texts while writing an email, and even in our leisure time we search the web while watching TV. Studies have shown that multitasking can reduce productivity by 40% and can even lower one’s IQ by 10 points. Our brains can’t do two things at once, so instead of multitasking you’re just switching between two tasks rapidly, but each time with a cognitive cost.
- So why can’t we just use self-control and ignore the push-notifications, buzzes, and pings? We can – but only for a limited amount of time. Self-control, much like any other resource is finite. Ignoring your phone requires effortful self-control that results in a temporary depletion of one’s willpower to control other emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. You may be able to ignore the first few pings, but the task becomes ever more difficult as the day goes on.
- To add to the problem of self-control, our brains crave the rewards often associated with social media. These distractions stimulate the production of two main chemical rewards – dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine causes us to search, seek, and desire novelty – which naturally makes us curious to explore the constant flow of information from social media outlets. Oxytocin, known for it’s ability to affect feelings of intimacy and bonding, is the stimulant for good feelings of love, empathy, trust, and compassion. When we post, comment, like, or share, and receive the same in return, our oxytocin levels rise and we feel more connected to those around us. The stimulation of social media not only makes us feel good, but leaves us wanting more.
The good news – there is a solution!
With digital distraction draining us of our time and energy, it is easy to forget that at its core, technology is meant to make our lives easier and more productive. We’ve got a solution – fight fire with fire. Instead of becoming a luddite, use new productivity technologies to take back control of your life, time, and focus. There are thousands of apps to help you streamline your workflow, automate tedious processes, and help you focus on what matters most. We’ll highlight three – Freedom, Todoist, and IFTTT – that you can use to increase your self-control, automate and prioritize your life, and make productivity a sustainable habit.
- Our first choice, and we’re certainly biased, is Freedom. Need two hours of quiet digital silence while you finish that report? Freedom is a productivity platform that enables users to block distracting sites, apps, and push-notifications across all their devices for a set amount of time. Whether you need to focus on work, family, or yourself, Freedom provides a simple solution for uninterrupted focus when you need it.
- With your digital distractions blocked, apps like Todoist can help you organize and prioritize your tasks, so that you can avoid the trap of multitasking. Use Todoist’s features to break down big projects into smaller tasks, collaborate with others, and even track your productivity trends over time with Todoist Karma.
- Finally, you can save time on tedious tasks by using IFTTT. This app allows you to automate processes between your favorite apps using the simple formula – if this, then that. For example, if I’m at work, then mute my phone. You can browse IFTTT’s huge library of recipes to automate saving photos to specific albums, sending headlines to your inbox, or saving tracks to your dropbox for later listening.
Now, dedicate yourself to starting to use technology to increase your productivity – rather than allow it to distract you from achieving your goals.