I have lots of interesting conversations with people about the distracting world we live in. Many tell me how difficult it is to achieve what they want and know they are capable of. They often ask for advice to minimize distractions at work so they can be more focused and, ultimately, more productive. And I’m happy to share what I’ve learned over the past few years. But I know it can sometimes be challenging to make the changes needed to work less distracted. I think it helps to understand the additional advantages of developing healthier tech habits, beyond productivity. Here are a few worth considering.
Longer Attention Span: By learning to work less distracted, you can hone your concentration skills and extend your attention span. Distractions impact our attention by fragmenting it into tiny bits. The amount of time we’re able to concentrate on average has been decreasing, from a mere 12 seconds in 2008 to a pathetic 8 seconds as of 2015. Now, in case you...
Show me one person who makes it through a day of work without being interrupted. It’s impossible! Whether you work in an office or remotely, as part of a team or on your own, the odds that you can focus on a specific task until it’s completed without having something break your concentration are pretty much nil. So, the question is, how much does that interruption affect us? Is it something we should be concerned about or not?
Research has shown that if we’re interrupted, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track. I said “if we’re interrupted” but should have said “every time we’re interrupted” because most of us are interrupted all day long. Typically, we spend only 11 minutes focused on a task before being interrupted. And that 11 minutes is typically fragmented into smaller 3-minute tasks. That adds up to an average of 20 interruptions an hour.
Now, to be fair, not all interruptions are equal. If...
Between her best-selling books and Netflix show, Marie Kondo has become famous for her “art of tidying.” If you follow her KonMari method, she promises you’ll end up feeling calmer, inspired and more joyful. Admittedly, when I read her books a couple of years ago, I found them super useful. I applied her method to our condo and I think we’ve enjoyed a tidier, more peaceful home overall.
The funny thing is that I never considered applying her method to my digital devices. But, given how much time we spend on them, I recently decided to give it a try on my iPhone. And the results were well worth it! I’m now more relaxed when using my phone and yes, even a little more joyful. So, I did the same exercise with my iPad.
If you’d like to see what tidying up your smartphone can do for you, follow these steps.
#1 – First, declutter your phone.
Start by unlocking your smartphone and closing all your apps. Then start working your way through each...
If I told you about someone who was stressed or anxious if they didn’t have a bottle of alcohol with them constantly, would you think they have a problem? What if I said they couldn’t go to the bathroom or to bed without it? What if it was a pack of cigarettes instead? Or some other socially-identified drug? Would you be concerned about their health and wellbeing?
Rightly so, I think most of us would think that person has some issues that need to be dealt with. But for some reason we don’t seem to feel the same way if it’s a smartphone that person can’t be without. Being attached to a smartphone may sound trivial but some people are willing to go to some surprising extremes to keep their phones with them at all times.
Nomophobia is shorthand for ‘no-mobile-phone phobia’ and yes, it is a real thing. The term was coined in 2010 during a research study on the anxieties of smartphone users, commissioned by the UK Post Office. Back then, they...
The idea for this article started when a long-time friend of mine admitted that she’s much more comfortable texting someone than talking to them. “Even me?”, I wondered. She told me this, by the way, when I called her because I had grown tired of texting back and forth. So, I phoned her instead to have what I consider a ‘real’ conversation. I was surprised at first to hear her confession but then I started thinking about how we communicate and how it’s changed with advancements in technology.
I happen to know that my friend is not alone in her preference for text over telephone. In fact, research shows that many people prefer email, text, instant message or chat over talking—whether it’s on the phone, in person or through video. And it’s not just younger generations, though they are even more likely to feel this way. This shift is often cited as the reason for the growing number of people who feel lonely and...
I interviewed the new CEO of Moment last week. In case you don’t know, Moment is an app designed to combat smartphone addiction by measuring your usage. It tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone, the number of times you pick it up and which apps you use the most.
I’ve been using Moment for almost 2 years now. A few weeks ago, I received an email announcing Moment’s new version, subscription service and CEO – Tim Kendall, formerly of Facebook and Pinterest. I was intrigued by their new CEO’s career path. How does one go from heading up companies that encourage people to spend time online to running one focused on helping people reduce the time they spend online? I decided to ask him that question myself.
I found out that becoming a parent was the catalyst for Tim’s career about-face. “I started getting personally affected by this issue of phone and device addiction about 2 to 3 years ago,” he said. “I was President of...
The holidays are supposed to be a blissful time of year but many people find themselves feeling stressed, isolated and sad. Our relationship with technology can contribute to this holiday malaise, given the amount of time we spend online and distracted. I wish we could change this just by saying “put your phone away and do something else” but I know that can be a struggle for some. If you find that’s the case, here are some activities that can reduce stress, strengthen your connection with others and hopefully bring you some joy during the festive season. You might need your devices to help organize some of them but all the good stuff happens offline. Happy holidays!
Wander for a While
We try to cram in so much in December that we end up racing from place to place and rushing all the time. How about taking time out for a walk? It doesn’t have to be long—10 minutes or more out of your day (or night). There should be no agenda, nothing to achieve except...
Multitasking is an amazing thing. By doing multiple things at once, we can improve our efficiency and productivity. It’s the key to being successful and happy! Or so we’re told. But I’ve learned otherwise so I’m calling BS on this misleading myth.
The truth is that multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be. Over the past two years I’ve learned the limitations of multitasking, when it does work and, more importantly, when it doesn’t. All this came about through the research I’ve been doing to overcome the state of distraction that has become our norm. The science of how our brain works makes it abundantly clear that most of what we believe about multitasking just isn’t true.
Through MRI technology, science has shown that our brains are not actually able to think about two things at once. When we try to, our brain reacts one of two ways:
I’m lucky—I’ve always been a fairly productive person, both in my personal and professional life. I seem to be hardwired to write ‘to do’ lists and I love to cross things off them. However, I realized a long time ago that my lists are never ending and, no matter how hard I try, I’m always disappointed that I never seem to get ahead. All this changed about two years ago, when I created some new habits to deal with the world of distraction that is now our reality.
One of the most useful new habits I have developed is to focus on 3 key daily tasks. I determine these tasks by identifying some specific goals that will deliver tangible and significant benefits to me professionally. Then I break these goals down into a series of small steps (i.e. tasks) that will lead to completing these larger accomplishments. For example, if I have a project for a client that’s due in six weeks, I work out all the tasks required to finish that project. Then I add...
Do you ever think about your relationship with your smartphone? We think about our how we interact with others, such as our partner, children, co-workers, etc. We consider those relationships often, with an understanding that they can significantly impact our health and well-being. Just look at all the number of articles, books and services on the subject. We usually know when those relationships are good for us and when they are not. But what about our smartphones?
I’ve interviewed people about their relationship with their phones and they’ve said things like “it’s a love/hate thing", "it has taken hold of me", "I panic if it’s not with me", "I wish I didn’t need it" and "I’m highly dependent on it.” If this was a friend of yours describing their relationship with someone else, I bet you’d be concerned and want to help them. But it’s just their phone, so we don’t consider it a problem.
So, how do you feel about...
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