Digital Distractions: Are You Using Technology Effectively?

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I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone. Once a week I get a “screen time report,” which I have requested my phone to send to me. I see the numbers each week for the time I spend looking at this tiny screen, and which apps I spent the majority of it on, and I cannot help adding up the hours to think about how much of this actually is necessary and/or productive?

With all of us walking around with tiny computers at our fingertips, it is easy to get distracted throughout the day. I mean, if I am bored at lunch I can be online shopping within seconds instead of returning my voicemails.

So what are some tips to ensure you are being dutiful and not distracted when it comes to your digital world?

1. Time block

This may feel overboard at first, but every 15 minutes of your day should be dedicated to what you are doing in that space. When are you going to the gym? When are you taking a lunch break? When are you answering your emails? When are you finishing that project? What time do you need to get the kids from school? Block each task out in advance will help you to stay on point throughout the day.

We tend, when we have large blocks of time, to think we can get more done. What really happens when that large block is not assigned to what is most pressing, we spend idle time doing things that do not get us anywhere, like aimlessly scrolling social media. I find that the more specific I am about what time in my calendar is supposed to be used for what, the more I can accomplish because I am not left with blocks where I spend time thinking about what I should be working on next.

2. Remove the distraction

This seems like a no-brainer, but we do not do it. When you are working on a project, shut down your email or any internal work messaging systems. If you followed step one, you will have time to deal with those later. Remove your phone from your site. If it is within arm’s length, you will inevitably get distracted.

If you are worried about the school nurse calling, just save the number as a favorite so the phone will still ring from that particular line while on silent, and otherwise silence notifications and keep it away from you.

With all of us walking around with tiny computers at our fingertips, it is easy to get distracted throughout the day. I mean, if I am bored at lunch I can be online shopping within seconds instead of returning my voicemails.

3. Communicate your schedule

Do not disturb time should be blocked on your calendar. If it is going to be several hours because you’re working on a project, make sure priority people know. Whether that is co-workers or kids in your work-from-home environment. Have clearly defined boundaries around when you are available and when you are not.

Make sure to take a few minutes before your do not disturb time to check in with anyone you may need to before hiding in your project hole. If someone does need you for something, schedule that too.

4. Disable notifications

I do this all the time, not just my do not disturb project time. None of my email or social media notifications come to my phone. Why? Because if they are there, I feel obligated to look at them. Which makes me way more susceptible to being distracted during a period of time not designated for these particular items.

If you are someone used to having these on and checking them all the time, it will be a big change to not see them, but trust me, you’ll feel ten times better when you’re free from the bonds.

5. Take breaks

You cannot be focused all the time. Notice in the time blocking section where I did not say to time block nine straight hours of project work and answering emails? You need to schedule breaks for yourself too. If you do best working out in the morning before you start your work day, make sure you schedule your gym time before you start putting in focus blocks.

Then schedule a break when you need to eat, and after every long project session to give your brain a break. Your breaks will actually make you more productive. Giving your brain time to decompress and mentally switch tasks between projects will help you be able to focus longer when you dive back in.

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