Recently the combination of two separate pieces of media taught me some valuable lessons on conditioning and time allocation that I am trying to apply to my everyday.
The first was an article in Inc. magazine that decried the belief (and obsession?) that we all have with multi-tasking. Research out of MIT has shown that multi-tasking is somewhat of a myth. Very much like our laptop or tablet, we only have so much processing power to give and, like the task manager if you CTRL+ALT+DEL your computer, if we allocate power to one thing we can’t allocate the full extent of our power to another. We only have 100% – and that assumes we can all give 100% all of the time anyway!
The other thing that stood out to me was processing power erosion caused by multi-tasking – it can degrade your productivity or focus by up to 40%. And let’s not even talk about the decline in accuracy caused as a result.
Not long after I read that article I watched a Netflix documentary called “The Social Dilemma” which discussed the development of social media apps, how they command attention and how they are deliberately designed to engage the user for maximum screen time. There are entire teams of engineers working around the clock to pull us into these environments and there are strong psychological drivers that are triggered by alerts, likes, nudges, winks, notifications, endorsements and tagging.
The combination of these two things caused me to reflect on how I run my day, how I engage with our team and where, and when, I devote my attention. I think we all know that we spend too much time on our phone, we are increasingly easily distracted and we all love to ALT+TAB between the 55 tabs we have open on our computer, but a gentle reminder of the impact this is having on us goes a long way. So, once my conscience was pierced, I decided to do something about it:
I turned off around 20 apps that were sending me notifications constantly and, like Pavlov’s dog, as soon as the phone lit up, no matter what I was in the midst of, I was overwhelmed with an urge to check it out.
I made a conscious decision on how often I would check apps to stay connected.
I set up a custom message on my phone for when I decline calls that outlines when I will call back.
I turned on do not disturb on my phone from 7pm in the evening.
I’m leaving my phone charging in another room while I sleep!
I closed down the majority of the open tabs on my computer and created a to-do list so that I can focus my attention on one specific task at a time (pleased to confirm I wrote this without doing anything else!!!).
…….I know, crazy right!!! I have to take it steady to avoid anxiety attacks 😉
And what’s next on my target list:
Closing my email when I am doing other tasks.
Closing ALL apps when I am busy with colleagues, clients or friends so I don’t drift into them while they’re talking.
I might, after a Panadol or two, even consider turning off my phone for short periods of the day.
Not simultaneously reading a book, watching TV, surfing social media and talking to my family. That one may take counselling, but I’m ready to try!
The only thing I know for sure is that I made a decision to try and be less driven by technology and more the driver of technology. I have no interest in being controlled by a group of system developers and neuroscientists, giving them large blocks of my time for free so they can sell it to the highest bidder.
What changes can you make to your everyday to reduce the role technology is playing in distracting you?
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