Do you suffer from “digital distraction?” Well, there’s an anecdote: “digital responsibility,” which means making sure we’re not using technology in a way that harms others, and secondly, becoming more aware of the impact tech is having on society, and importantly… our own health. But it’s not quite so simple as just “turning off your laptop!” or “putting down your phone!” We need these devices for communication, work and life in general. But when trying to get something done, we often fall into the trap of multitasking – or what we think is multitasking. We start answering an email before responding to a message, then sneak a peek at a news site before we jumping over to check on our team’s game scores… before going back to the email. You might feel like you’re getting a whole lot done at the same time but human brains are not cognitively capable of handling more than one serious task at a time.
Our attention spans and productivity are being ripped away from us by the slow water torture of digital distraction – and it’s affecting everyone from at-home workers to office workers to college students to teenagers. It’s frustrating because as noted, we need to stay online but we also need to concentrate.
One solution is being found in technology itself. Over the past several years, tens of millions of people have discovered the benefits of downloading a blocking app which is an app that does exactly what its name suggests. After a quick free download, the app can sync across all of your devices and teaches you how to block a website. You set all the parameters. Perhaps social media isn’t something you should be engaging in during certain times of the day. –Not a problem. Block those sites for those periods of time. Perhaps you don’t need to know the results of last night’s game until your lunch break. –Not a problem. Block sports sites until lunch. The app allows you to make a whole bunch of choices… and the very act of making those choices helps reinforce your commitment to productivity. You have to self-audit and decide what are the stumbling blocks holding you back from being more productive — and block them. It’s a wonderful exercise in self-discipline and becoming more digitally responsible.
Aside from cultivating digital responsibility, another great goal for 2022 would be developing what are called “micro habits.” Many people make New Year’s resolutions that are a bit too grand in scope and scale. “I’m going to start exercising this year!” “I’m going to read more books this year!” But a micro habit would be a commitment to read for 10 minutes each night before bedtime, and after a while, increasing that to 20 minutes… and so on. These micro habits steer you towards bigger goals. Make sure to start with almost ridiculously easy micro habits and you’ll see how easy they are to implement, which will lead to an encouraging virtuous cycle that results in serious improvements to your life and overall productivity.
How many of us vowed to start exercising this year? Well, instead of signing up for a gym membership and then berating yourself for never going, why not try starting with a 5-minute morning workout routine commitment and after a month, increase that to 10 minutes and see how you feel? If you find you have more energy you’ll be encouraged to continue and expand on it. The key to micro habits is consistency. If you’ve committed to 5 minutes every morning then you must do 5 minutes. Should you drop that commitment the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.
A final suggestion for improving productivity in 2022 is “intention setting.” This is a pretty simple procedure whereby after you’ve had your morning coffee or whatever ritual you start your day with, you set out goals for that day. You could write them down but you don’t have to. You could simply tell yourself that this morning you are going to, “Finish that report, go to the post office, swing by the pet store for cat food, and then in the afternoon you intend to do X, Y, and Z.” By setting these intentions early in the day you have made commitments to yourself, and then when you follow through at the end of the day there is a sense of satisfaction. And let’s all not forget to be nice to ourselves.
We’ve all had a rough couple of years and so many of us are trying to do so much. Maybe you’re running your own small business while also raising a couple of young kids, or working on a novel while also caring for part-time for aging parents. It’s exhausting. Give yourself a break to do something you genuinely enjoy. Even if it’s something that’s not “officially productive” like wallowing in your favorite Netflix melodrama, or reading some “silly” novel. You deserve a break… and science proves that breaks are important for anyone trying to achieve a goal.
Have a great year, good luck, stick to it, and become more productive in 2022!