Let's face it, I'm attached to my phone and I am not alone. Workplace distractions are at an all time high. Who is in charge of our time and focus? Us or the phone?
31 January 2020
American Psychologist Timothy Leary famously said "Tune In, turn on, and drop out" in 1966. Putting aside Leary's infamous research methods, his thinking about being able to disconnect oneself from distraction to allow ourselves to focus and be more aware of our higher needs, is making a significant comeback in a heavily distracted world.
So, how distracted are we?
Not only are we distracted, when we are interrupted, the impact is significant. After only 20 minutes of interrupted performance people reported significantly higher stress, frustration, workload, effort, and pressure.
After a huge full year for our business and a new addition to the family, I knew I needed to make every minute in the day count. Yet, I had a massive attachment to my smart phone. I was jumping immediately at every ping to the inbox, notifications from social media and then scrolling through twitter and other feeds often out of habit. As David Carr said, "there is always something more interesting on Twitter than whatever you happen to be working on".
In essence, I was 'clicking without purpose'. The implication was time wasted, procrastination and immediate distraction from the task at hand.
After a sobering read of Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism, I thought long and hard about the purpose of technology and attachment, and therefore, the detachment, from other things. Now, I don't believe in the digital detox proposed by Newport but I did start to think about these questions;
How can I make a conscious choice about how I use applications and technology?
How do I avoid the interruptions and maintain focus?
What am I losing out on as a result of clicking without purpose?
Each push notification is specifically designed to keep us coming back and increase engagement to the app developer or digital marketers but at what cost? They aim to create emotional attachment and increase usage and click-through and we are feeding the machine.
Asking these three questions and thinking about the impact of all those apps, enabled me to make a conscious decision to disconnect over the break and remove notifications from my phone. Instead, I proactively checked my email twice a day at set times, to respond to clients and manage important things. I broke the attachment fast and the result was amazing. After the first few days focus came back, I read through books in one sitting, wrote down new business ideas, engaged with friends without the need to pull out the phone and check what that ping or buzz was drawing my attention to and away from the conversation (how rude!).
I was connected for the sake of being connected.
Now, the perceived irony of writing about disconnecting from social media on this platform is not lost on me. But I do so with purpose.
Insights and thought leadership is key to challenging our own beliefs and awareness, that ultimately should help lead us to a more purposeful life; filling each day with enriched activities or interactions and cutting out those time wasting meetings and nights with the tele on but engrossed in the latest tweets and posts about, well not a lot really.
So what will you do to avoid distractions and stay purposeful in 2020?
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