Today, in the 21st century, there is no doubt that we live in an increasingly digitized environment. Wireless communications reign almost everywhere in the world.
This is undoubtedly a great advance that humanity has made. However, it is a double-edged sword when it comes to productivity. I'm not wrong if I say that the digital world is where more distractions occur.
You are quietly working or even in your free time meeting with friends. You get a notification from Facebook and immediately you have to go see that interesting photo that they have uploaded. Or when you get into your favorite newspaper, finish reading a story and jump to another, then link to a new blog, from there to an online store through an ad, until you realize it's time to eat and you have done nothing.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? It happens to all of us. It doesn't matter if you're in the office, working from home, or in your spare time. We are subjected daily to innumerable distractions that do nothing but hinder our failed attempts to concentrate.
The New York Times conducted an experiment with Carnegie Mellon University to study how it affects performance in different groups of people. The conclusion was that the group that was not interrupted got 20% more correct answers than those that received a message during the test.
The biggest problem that we actually face is in recognizing those interruptions. It is up to us to manage the information that reaches us so that it does not interfere with our tasks.
That is why I want to expose you to the main digital distractions and some solutions for you to apply today.
Top digital distractions
1. Social media
Everyone knows the great world that social media have opened. Upload photos, and videos, comments, and participate in groups. Endless features.
However, we have something with them that catches us. 5 or 10 minutes are not enough for us, we are completely hooked. And it is that social networks are made for that. You enter them and you have endless information. You go through pages and pages, and there is no end!
We are not aware of the impact that a "Like", a mention, or that someone shares some content, can directly affect our state of concentration.
On the other hand, there are notifications. From my point of view, they are the key to Pandora's Box. Perhaps everything was going well that day, you had been working concentrated for half an hour until you hear the sound of the notification and immediately enter.
And the problem now is not just that you stop doing what you were doing, with the loss of time that comes with returning to that state of concentration. The added problem is that you may not be left to visualize that activity that the mobile shows, but you link to something else and the road to your downfall will begin.
Have you stopped to think about how many times you check your email a day? And the time you spend reading and responding to everything?
Many times we suffer from email addiction. We constantly check the inbox, even knowing that nothing important is going to arrive.
Email is a great work tool, but like any other tool, we must learn to use it correctly so that, among other things, the distraction does not fall on us.
Every time we open the inbox, we are wasting time inefficiently, since the time you spend stopping what you were doing, checking the news, and leaving, is greater than if you had concentrated everything on the moment destined for such action.
On the other hand, the ease of subscribing to a Newsletter is the order of the day. When we don't realize it, our inbox is full of messages that we don't even stop to read. Seeing such a quantity, we get overwhelmed and close. But of course, the next day all of them are still there, so we spent time reviewing what we already knew was happening.
Email management is one of the main problems of loss of focus and digital distraction. Therefore, the great importance of putting a stop to all the factors that surround it.
3. Digital multitasking
Do you think it makes you more productive to do several things at the same time? I hope you have a clear answer. If not, let me at least give you my point of view.
We hear from many sites that being able to multitask is a great skill. More tasks in the same space of time. However, the only thing we get is the opposite.
We are happily doing some activity. It doesn't have to be strictly business. Normally things like two colleagues talking while one of them writes an email come to mind. You don't even know 100% of what your partner tells you and that email will have to be reviewed again.
But I can give you another example, like someone running who stops to answer a call. You are neither exercising properly nor answering the call properly.
It happens to us even when we are surfing the Internet. We are reading a news story and we remember something that we had to buy online. We leave that news halfway and go shopping. After a while and returning to the news, you don't even know where you were.
Among the biggest drawbacks that multitasking includes is a decrease in efficiency, a drop in general performance, it causes stress, and even prolonged memory loss.
How to fight digital distraction
1. Turn off notifications
As simple as that.
Whether they are mobile notifications or computer desktop notifications. If by some chance you do not find out about the latest news that circulates on the network, the last "like" that you have been given, or that comment on your Instagram photo, I'll tell you: nothing happens, the world follows spinning.
If you are one of those people who have the mobile notification bar always full of icons, I strongly recommend that you take action in this regard. Just seeing it will cause you to stress you don't need it.
In most cases, this information is even irrelevant. If you think that there is information that is important to receive, I also recommend that you stop and sit down to study all those notifications that you receive. Go one by one to really decide if it's a must. Also applicable to WhatsApp groups.
Facebook groups are a great source of distraction. You do not realize it, they invite you to one and suddenly you are part of it. Handle group management with caution. Otherwise, you will see dozens of daily notifications that go nowhere.
Something similar happens in the case of Twitter and Instagram. Follow only those people who really add value to you, do not follow for the sake of following.
In the case of social networks in general, I leave them completely deactivated, and I only see the news when I enter them. This is how I decide when I want to see the content. And also, I advise you to log out every time you leave them.
And to end this point, say that the classic "Do not disturb" mode is still valid today. Highly recommended for those moments when you need full concentration.
2. Forget email
Without a doubt, here we are before one of the greatest thieves of time. It seems that society tells us that we have to be 24/7 in the email, for what may happen. Always attentive, always responding.
The reality says the opposite. As in the previous point, the world keeps turning. Absolutely nothing happens if instead of responding at the moment you do it after hours or the next day.
Leaving the browser tab always open or with desktop notifications active makes it a constant distraction. It keeps us alert to what may come, thus deteriorating our concentration.
My advice here is to limit the use of email to 2 or 3 times a day maximum. Choose the moment you consider appropriate. For example, after breakfast, after lunch, and at the latest, before dinner time. Dedicate the time you consider. Spaces of 30 minutes per session should be enough, although over time you will surely gain ease in "dispatching" emails more effectively.
In the meantime, forget about it and focus 100% on what you're doing.
On the other hand, surely you are subscribed to several newsletters: travel booking websites, news blogs, or subscriptions to social networks, among others. Some will be of interest to you. Others, however, perhaps you signed up for something in particular and although you are no longer interested, you continue to receive those emails.
Do cleaning. Just like social media groups, stop and study the ones you're still interested in and unsubscribe from the rest. There is a very useful online tool called unroll.me, which lists all the newsletters you are subscribed to and allows you to unsubscribe with one click.
3. Use a to-do list
The brain is meant to think and create, not to remember. If every time we start working we have to think about what we have to do, it is very easy for distraction to appear and divert our attention to something else. The solution: create a to-do list.
First of all, you should write down everything that comes to your mind that you have to do, no matter how small. And second, assign it a priority.
It is very easy to start the day doing things faster and with less impact, but it is a bad habit that must be eliminated.
What to put on the list? Everything. Not only the obligations, such as what you have and should do, but also what you would like to do one day.
It is important to set goals for periods of time: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. Never lose sight of the long term. You can use the 1-3-5 rule. It consists of setting 1 large task, 3 medium, and 5 small. Normally it is used for each day, but if you see the time is not what you have left, consider doing it weekly.
There are plenty of tools available for making to-do lists. You can start with the most basic and lifelong, such as paper and pencil. You can also use other free managers, such as Google Keep, which will allow you to structure in a simple way and with various options, such as colors, labels, etc.
4. Use of time blocks
When you're working on something until you get tired or bored, it's very easy to get distracted. If you are with the computer, a simple click of the mouse can lead you to your doom on the network.
This is where targeting comes into play. I have already talked before about the importance of setting different levels of objectives. Now it's time to put it into practice with the help of time blocks.
What's it all about?
Seek to set work periods that are short but effective. It's no use spending 3 hours in a row if half of you have been looking at flies, surfing the Internet for a few minutes or keeping an eye on your mobile.
It is best to start, once again, with the basics. Set a single task, a single work focus for a period of time.
Here comes my favorite technique, the Pomodoro. It consists of making blocks of time of 25 minutes of work + 5 minutes of rest. Then, every 2-3 blocks, take a longer break of 15-20 minutes. These values can be customized, but without losing what you want to convey.
Human concentration is fleeting. What we achieve with this method is to focus on one thing for a short period of time, thus avoiding distractions. Then, leave a pause time for our brain to breathe.
You can use a simple stopwatch or a web app like Tomato Timer. The important thing is not to fool yourself and focus when you have to.
Another point to keep in mind is to leave the mobile away from you. Put it on airplane mode so you won't be distracted by any noise it might make, put it upside down or in another room to avoid the temptation to peek.
5. Web blockers to stay focused
If even with all of the above we are tempted to surf the net, we can go one step further. Everything is to try to scratch a little more productivity.
We already know that at the click of a mouse, we can be on any social network, watching videos on YouTube, or in our favorite newspaper.
Here I want to introduce you to some tools that will block the websites that you define in advance:
• Stay Focused: Chrome extension in which you can configure the different websites, blocking time, and a series of other parameters. It has the “Nuclear” option, in which it blocks everything for as long as you consider. There is no way back.
• Cold Turkey: Application for Windows, totally free. Features similar to the previous extension.
• Self Control: In the style of Cold Turkey, but exclusively for Mac environments. All you have to do is write the desired websites and the block duration on a list.
6. News manager
If you are one of those who read various sources of information daily, whether they are digital newspapers, opinion blogs, or entertainment websites, you may have noticed the amount of time you spend on all of them.
The distraction that we face here has to do with jumping from one place to another. We go to our trusted newspaper, we read all the new entries and now we enter our travel blog. If we have endured without falling into anything, we end up watching some memes or reviewing our favorite YouTube channel.
In the end, each day is a ritual, in which we know that we have to go through all those web pages to feel that we are updated. We do not want to leave anything pending. It does not matter if what is published today is of total interest or not, but you have to review everything.
It takes us a long time to filter all this information, and having it in a decentralized way does not help the time invested in it to be productive.
A solution to this would be to use a news manager, such as Feedly. In particular, it has saved me countless hours since I've been using it. In it, you can search for those sites that you follow regularly and find others that you do not have.
Every time a new entry arrives, it will be incremented in the sidebar, in its corresponding place. You can use different types of visualization, to see the entire posts (not recommended) or only by the title and small intro (recommended) so that, at a glance, you know if it is of interest or not.
7. Order on your PC desktop
Are you one of those people who have an empty PC desktop? Or on the contrary, there is no gap left?
Maintaining an orderly workspace, whether it's your own office, your work desk at home, or your computer desk, in this case, helps you stay focused, and therefore productive.
Having all your documents, images, and folders scattered on your desktop will only waste more time in the future when you want to find something.
If all this discipline still makes you lazy, you can start with wallpapers dedicated to the organization of files. It may be a good intermediate step until you have everything under control.
As I always say, it is not necessary to apply everything at once. You have to be the one to try out the different tools, and see what works for you and what doesn't. Each one has a way of working, it has strengths and weaknesses, so the solutions may vary.
Now it's time to work. Don't let everything stay in reading and theory. It's time to take action and put everything learned into practice.
Do you have any other tricks to dodge digital distractions? Did you know any of the ones I mentioned?
I'm sure you'll have a good story to tell about it, let me know in the comments!