To Stay Focused, Control Your Technology

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Attention management is an essential skill in the modern workplace. To stay focused, you have to take control of your technology. With so many alerts, messages and temptations from our devices clamoring for our attention, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that technology is supposed to serve us — not the other way around.

To stay focused, tame your technology, productivity expert Maura Nevel Thomas says.

Distractions from technology can make it a challenge to stay focused.

You’ll be able to do more focused work if you give yourself a fighting chance against technological distractions. Don’t rely on willpower alone! “Decision fatigue” is a real thing. We have only so much willpower, and ignoring email alerts and social media notifications taps it out.

As the New York Times put it:

you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts …

That’s why I recommend steps like these to reduce tech distractions and stay focused on your work.

  • Learn how to use the Do Not Disturb feature on your phone. You can set your phone not to ring during time periods you choose or to allow calls only from certain numbers.
  • You may already be setting your phone to vibrate at social events or other times you don’t want to be interrupted, but try setting it to silent instead. Even though the vibration doesn’t disturb others the way that a ringing phone would, you still know you have a call and that’s taking you out of the moment.
  • Our collective lack of sleep is a public health crisis, according to the CDC. One of the main culprits is distraction from our electronic devices. So that you won’t be tempted to check email if you wake up in the middle of the night, turn your phone off or put it in airplane mode when you go to bed.
  • Turn off notifications and alerts from emails. Do you really need an alert? Let me end the suspense for you: you have email! Now you can shut off the notifications.
  • Turn off notifications and alerts from apps. These were not designed to serve you, they were designed to keep you coming back to the app.
  • On your computer, turn off email downloads when you’re working. Work in offline mode if you can’t control the timing of the downloads.
  • Try Google Voice to give yourself more control over phone interruptions and have better work-life balance.
  • When you are constantly distracted by technology, quiet, focused times will feel unnatural, and you’ll have an itch to check your devices. Set a timer for 10 minutes free from email, texts and other distractions. Gradually increase the time until you can stay focused and undistracted for an hour or more.

Attention management is the new path to productivity. It’s time to take it seriously.

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Comments

  1. I thought the focus problem was just due to aging. Hadn’t put it in perspective that you have pointed out. Thanks!!!!!

    • Maura Thomas says:

      Sharon, that’s a common belief, but in general, attention span should get longer as we age! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Always great insight. I started setting my phone to Do-Not-Disturb after work hours years ago. I also never allow apps to send me push notifications. If the app is important enough, I’ll check there when I make time for it. As you know, I can be a rather distracted fellow, so managing my attention has been an ongoing exercise for years. Again, great article. Happy to share!

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