Leave Digital Distraction in the Past, Become More Focused in 2022
Blocking websites at certain times with a ‘blocking app’ is a smart way to avoid task-switching
Here’s an awesome New Year’s resolution: “become more focused!” Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done as among the biggest things to overcome on the road to more focus is multitasking. The Harvard Business Review notes that: “Doing two things well at the same time is possible only when at least one task is automatic. So, yes, you can walk and chew gum simultaneously. But check e-mail while participating in a conference call? Look at your Facebook feed and still do meaningful work? Researchers have demonstrated that the mere presence of a phone makes people less productive and less trusting, and that students who are interrupted while studying take longer to learn the material and feel more stressed. Gloria Mark, of the University of California, Irvine, has shown that workers typically attend to a task for about three minutes before switching to something else (usually an electronic communication) and that it takes about 20 minutes to return to the previous task.”
Multitasking is very often the product of digital distractions. These ever-increasing distractions are playing havoc with our brain as the task-switching required is a strain that directly results in less focus and therefore less productivity. This is why tens of millions of people around the world have now downloaded a blocking app. In case you haven’t heard about this tech trend, a website blocker for studying or working is an app that syncs across all your devices and allows you to set up schedules for which websites you would like to block at what times. It’s an incredibly effective tool against digital distraction. You can block emails when you’re supposed to be studying, or block social media when you have a report to write. This means you can leave certain sections of the internet ‘on’ for research purposes, for example, while blocking the specific sites that cause you to often become distracted. Not every social media notification is worth a 20-minute break in concentration. By blocking these sites and their notifications, you can focus on the task at hand, one task at hand at a time. This is – in a nutshell – the key to becoming more focused and productive.
As the Harvard Business Review reports, not only does it take workers a significant amount of time to return focus to a previous task when disrupted or distracted, but internet-connected devices cause us stress. Numerous studies show people check their smartphones every 15 minutes or less, perhaps much less for some. We experience stress when we’re not allowed to look at phones. So, the act of setting up a blocking app and the knowledge that you are not able to access sites on your phone is a shortcut to removing that stress and a strategy for regaining control over your attention span and anxiety levels. Of course, anybody can at any time choose to uninstall the app… but most people don’t. This is because most of us are trying to do better. We want to get stuff done and we berate ourselves when we find that we’ve wasted huge chunks of time on trivial matters. The act of downloading a blocking app and setting up all the parameters is an act that signals a commitment to change. You are telling your brain that you want things to be different and you want to focus. For most people, after the blocking app is set up, a sense of calm comes over them as they can simply tell themselves: that’s not an option.
A simple way to understand the idea of a blocking app is fighting fire with fire. If we were to tell you that you “just need to turn off your phone and pay attention” it would pose too great of a challenge. A survey by Tata Communication shows that people in the US, Europe, and Asia spend close to six hours a day on the internet, and almost 65% worry when they don’t have access. So instead of trying to go “cold turkey” and refrain from the internet, instead, try strategies for using technology to help you manage your life with tech. Email filters are just one of the ways of setting up tech so that you are not inundated by non-essential work. Other tools are available for helping you reduce the amount of information overload that’s a constant feature of the web include subscribing to specific news sources and sticking to only their newsletter or their curated magazine. This helps you skip jumping all over the web. You can set aside time once a day or perhaps even just a couple of times a week to keep up with news that’s relevant to your life or your studies.
To become more productive in 2022, you need to assess yourself with a critical eye and determine which areas are holding you back. What are the primary digital distractions that are troublesome for you? How can you ameliorate the situation? If you do this with honesty and set up strategies for beginning to develop new habits, you will over the year, become a more well-rounded, more productive, and happier individual. Good luck and have a great year!