Most people’s brains are programmed for distraction. But the good news is that you can change your mental programming.
As an Inc article written by a psychology and marketing professor explains, your brain is a time production machine. It’s constantly predicting when you need to do something again, including checking an electronic device or e-mail.
For many people, those subconscious checks happen multiple times an hour, diverting your focus from the task at hand and introducing new mental input that you’ll need to try to juggle along with your current focus.
Not only is this process less efficient, it’s mentally fatiguing and can increase your sense of feeling drained and fragmented at the end of the day.
So how do you get out of this vicious cycle?
The article on How to Disrupt Your Brain’s Distraction Habit recommends noting the frequency of how often you check devices, then putting all of your devices away from you, and practicing gradually increasing the intervals between checks.
It also recommends using your personal time to practice not checking your device, from leaving your phone behind when you go on a walk to not checking it when you stand in line at the store.
Here are a few other tips that I’ve found to be helpful in learning to focus:
- Turn off all visual or sound alerts for e-mail or social media notifications. Knowing something has come up makes it much harder to resist.
- When you really need to focus, turn off the volume on your phone and flip it over so you can’t see the screen. If you really, really, really need to focus, leave it in another room.
- Consider using an Internet, social media, and app blocker like Freedom to help you stay on track when your willpower is low.
- Close the tabs on potentially distracting items. For example, I found myself much less tempted to check my personal e-mail during the day when I simply closed the tab so I don’t see the visual cue. Consider turning off IM when you can.
- Determine if you’re anxious. I rarely have a compulsive tendency to check e-mail. But when I do, it’s usually always because I’m anxious about a response. Reminding myself that checking my e-mail more frequently will not lead to a quicker answer and usually will fuel fear, helps me to calm down and to check it only at predetermined times.
- Clarify what you should do. Another reason for frequent tech checks is a lack of clarity on what you should be doing instead. If you’re stuck, step away from the computer, think through what needs to be done next, write it down, and then proceed.
- Get comfortable with ambiguity. With all of the technology, especially phones, our brains have lost comfort with openness and spaciousness. But it’s in that point of unknown, that we refresh, make sense of the world, find ourselves, and connect with others. So the next time you find yourself wanting to randomly check something online, stop and be with your thoughts or dare to connect with the person next to you.
May you experience greater freedom from distraction so that you can enjoy life more.
If you’re in the States, use this holiday weekend to start practicing breaking free from technology.
To your brilliance!