How to Get Technology on Your Side and be More Productive

HuongDTM - Jan 20, 2022


How to Get Technology on Your Side and be More Productive

Let's look at a couple of strategies that could help us cut down on distractions and become more productive this year.

The tables have turned. Being disconnected from the online world now is more difficult than getting connected. With computers in our pockets and the internet virtually everywhere, you have to put some effort into “checking out.” About 25 years ago or so, new tech such as email or teleconferencing was – without a doubt – a benefit to productivity. The 1990s and early 2000s saw some huge spikes in getting stuff done courtesy of new tech. But since about 2010, that's changed. And now as we enter 2022, many people may agree that tech is often more of a distraction than a tool. Digital distraction accounts for huge dents to productivity, costing economies billions of dollars every year and making our work more tedious and stressful than it needs to be. So let's look at a couple of strategies that could help us cut down on distractions and become more productive this year.

Mobygeek
How to Get Technology on Your Side and be More Productive

The first idea is easy to install – and is a great psychological tool as well. Across the planet over the past couple of years, millions upon millions of office workers, college students, or even just stay-at-home parents have been discovering the benefits of downloading a blocking app. These blocking apps help increase productivity by putting limitations on what you can access and at what times. Step one is to download the free app, step two is to have it sync across your devices, step three is to set the parameters of what works for you, and step four is you becoming more productive. If you know that you have a big report to finish on Monday morning, for example, you could block most of the internet, as well as notifications, or email, for that period. Or if in general, you have a problem with getting wrapped up in social media for the first couple of hours at the office – when instead that would be a prime time to get stuff done, you can block those specific sites for whatever times you choose. Blocking apps also filter out adult content so they can be useful for teenagers with phones. And for anybody who has other specific addictions such as gambling, simply blocking access to any such sites can be a godsend.

One of the reasons why blocking apps work so well is that they reinforce choice. You have to make the decisions about what you intend to block, and as you're doing this it's a virtuous cycle of positive moves towards productivity. If you forget and end up at one of the blocked sites a little message will pop up saying, “Nice try! Aren't you supposed to be working?” That's usually all most of us need to get back to the task at hand. A blocking app uses technology against itself; ‘fighting fire with fire.’ The apps also come with scheduling features and timers. Many people have probably already heard of the famous ‘tomato timer technique.’ This is an idea where you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. The app can schedule such work routines for you if you find them effective.

Blocking apps can block many notifications, but you’d be wise to go through your devices and see if there aren't even more notifications you can turn off. For example, maybe you have a weather app. It's nice to know the weather and air quality when you wish, but having a little flashing light on your phone when the temp changes aren’t what you need. These sorts of micro distractions are very detrimental to productivity as they require our brains to shift from one task to another, and we don't do that very well. We all have very one-track minds. Many think they can “multitask,” but in reality, they are “task-switching,” which is tiresome and cognitively draining. Reducing these task-switching distractions is very helpful.

Although almost every email provider allows for very clear filtering of emails, polls show that not that many people use them. Perhaps people think they are hard to set up but trust us, it's worth it. When your emails are properly filtered you won’t ever again open up your email account to find you have 200+ unread messages. That type of overload is discouraging and makes a lot of people procrastinate because the task seems overwhelming. With properly-done filtering, you can look at each folder decide what is a priority and get to it. The others might be important… but they can wait.

The Harvard Business Review notes that back in the 1970s, an executive would get approximately 1,000 communications per year. But an executive in the 1980s started getting 4,000 communications a year – and that rise coincided with the rise of voicemail. In the 1990s, as we all got email addresses, the same person got 9,000 communications a year, while in the 2000s it went up to 25,000… and after the 2010s, it's now 30,000 a year and climbing. When you need to get something done you have to enter into a state of ‘flow’ that cannot be obtained when you're being distracted by tens of thousands of communications, some that are of dubious value. A blocking app is a good start to set aside ‘sacred’ times for concentrated work. Concentration is an art. Focus is a skill. These have been slowly stolen from us through a variety of digital distractions. It's time to reclaim our lives and make technology work for us and not the other way around.

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