Smart_phone_distraction_trap.jpg

How often do you check your smartphone? Does it join you on the sofa, at dinner, or even in bed?

It wasn’t so long ago – relatively – that we were learning how to switch on our first mobile phones. Yet fast-forward through a few years of leaping technology advances, and many of us have forgotten where the off button is.  

Being constantly connected is a serious issue that has left many of us feeling overwhelmed, drained and stressed. Our health and productivity have started to suffer, with a knock-on impact on our wellbeing and effectiveness at work.

Having to post, tweet, message, scroll, search – and get our work done – is starting to take its toll. For many of us, it’s just too much.

Recently, I started to notice people staring down at handheld screens everywhere I went – on trains, at bus stops, and even walking along the street. With a furrowed brow and an anxious, urgent manner, they scrolled and frantically typed.

I started to question whether it was all really that urgent, and whether people were happy living in this way. People told me they felt a huge pressure to be connected 24/7, and said they had to live like this because of work. They admitted they checked messages when they woke in the middle of the night, or told me how they wanted to throw their partner’s smartphone in the bin. Many people said they had no strategy to deal with email, letting it sap productivity and waste their time. They said they felt stressed, overwhelmed, and asked me for help.

So, I decided to write The Distraction Trap, a book on how to be productive and healthy in the digital world. 

The solution is not to ban smartphones, social media or the Internet – of course that would be unrealistic. But we need to start being conscious of our digital use and how it fits into our lives.

Start by trying these tips:

 

Five top tips for digital wellbeing at work

 

1) Be ruthless with your email

Could you wait an hour before you log in to your email? Often we get pulled away from the important work we have to do when we open our inbox and get sidetracked by other people’s demands. Ask yourself whether you even need to send that email. Talking in person or on the phone often solves things more efficiently than a string of five messages.

2) Manage your expectation

We need to look at the expectation we place on ourselves even more than the expectation we place on other people. Do you expect yourself to keep up across multiple platforms (Tweeting, messaging, posting) and still expect to come up with something meaningful to say? Be realistic about your energy and time. Would connecting meaningfully with one person be worth more than connecting in a meaningless way with many people? Weigh up quantity and quality.  

3) Protect your thinking zone

Do you need to come up with good ideas? If every time we’re close to having an idea, there’s a ‘ping’ interrupting us, these ideas will be left unformed. Downgrading to bite-sized thinking is a serious issue for businesses who need fresh ideas. Find, or create, a distraction-free zone to help with thinking. Be aware, also, of what you feed your mind. Do you mindlessly browse the Internet, reading about things that don’t interest you? Your attention is a precious resource – don’t waste it.

4) Tell someone if you’re overwhelmed

Digital addiction and digital distraction are serious issues that are causing many people stress worldwide. It’s OK to talk these issues through, and work with someone to develop methods that will decrease your stress and increase your feelings of control. Not only will your wellbeing improve, you’ll also be more productive, so it’s in the interests of your employer to help you with this.  

5) Draw a line

Unless you press the off button on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, the danger is that your office gets to come home with you and access all areas. Everyone needs time to recharge, and switching off from work when you leave the office is not a crime. In fact, it makes you more efficient and happier when you’re there. So draw a line.   

 

About the author

Frances Booth is author of The Distraction Trap: How to Focus in a Digital World (Pearson, 2013). She works with organisations and businesses to improve productivity and deal with the stresses caused by being constantly connected. Her work includes one-to-one sessions and group workshops. If you want to talk to her about coming in to your office to work with you, email frances@herearesomewords.com 

The Distraction Trap: How to Focus in a Digital World, is available to buy from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Distraction-Trap-Focus-Digital/dp/0273785850   

 

Image: the commons