Small Changes You Can Make Today Can Increase Your Productivity

The essential guide for combating digital distraction.

(Suphaksorn Thongwongboot /

Take a moment and honestly answer the following question about yourself, are you addicted to your cell phone?

If you moved back in your seat, rolled your eyes, got a bit defensive, or immediately thought no, then you may want to take a second, think again, and give these next few questions a try. Remember, be honest with yourself:

  • How many hours a day are you on your phone – texting, on Pinterest, or playing games?
  • How many additional hours a day are you actively using a computer, tablet, or kindle?
  • How quickly do you check any of these devices after receiving a notification?

Maybe a better question is, how many hours a day are you actively not on your phone? On a daily basis the average American spends over 10 hours in front of a screen. Over 10 hours every day - that’s a lot of time! There are only 24 hours in a day and if you’re one of the lucky ones getting eight+ hours of sleep a night, that means there aren’t many moments of your day (aside from when you’re asleep) that you are in a digital-free space.

Digital overload, the constant stream of information people get through mobile and other devices, has completely taken over everyday life, both personal and professional. Day and night people’s eyes move from one screen to the next and although technology has allowed you to innovate how people work, it has also created new ways to distract and prevent them from achieving the task at hand. Even when they want to focus, the ping of new messages, emails, and other notifications are constant and dramatically affect their productivity.

So, let’s revisit the question. Maybe… you do spend a bit too much time on your phone or in front of the computer. But how can you minimize time on your devices?

The culture of constant connection has brought you to this point and in today’s digital era it is unrealistic to consider turning off your devices as a permanent solution. Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t fight back and make a positive adjustment to your unhealthy relationship with technology.

Admit It, You’ve Got a Problem
Acknowledging the issue at hand gives you a fighting chance to successfully form a new habit. By addressing your digital distraction, you can now implement tools to keep you from doing things like, scrolling through your Facebook news feeds for the third time in the last 10 minutes.

Take a Break
Turn off your screen – it’s ok to take a break – they are needed sometimes! Sitting in front of any screen for too long isn’t good for you: It can cause eye strain as well as other physical body pains that in the long run can inhibit your overall quality of life. Take a short 10-minute walk to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and clear your thoughts and leave your phones at your desk.

Get a Planner and Work Offline
There are a number of different digital calendars, agendas, and planners to help keep you organized, but to access them you need to get online where the temptation to take a “quick two-minute” peek on twitter can be overwhelming. Try getting a planner instead! Physically writing things down actually helps us remember your to-do lists better and it’s offline where the allure of other apps or sites doesn’t exist. The transition is easy -give it a shot!

Scramble the Apps on Your Cell Phone
People’s thumbs have become hardwired. Oftentimes you will find yourself automatically tapping away on your screen, without thinking about where you need to click next, and before you know it, you’ve done a full recap sweep of all of your feeds.

An easy way to help eliminate the mindless scrolling is to scramble the location of the apps on your phone. Changing the location and order of your apps or burying your favorites deep in a folder on your third homepage screen is an excellent place to begin. Now, in order to get to it, you have to stop and think about what you want to pull up and where it is.

Create Non-Digital Space Throughout the Day
If the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you do before you go to bed at night consist of being on your phone, pump the brakes! Create a different routine that separates the process of beginning and ending your day in front of the screen.

Instead of rolling over in bed and scrolling through the morning news, leave your phone on the nightstand and reclaim those 15-20 minutes with something a bit more active. Morning yoga, a light run, meditation, or even making yourself a delicious breakfast are all great ways to wake up your body and mind.

You Don’t Need to Be Available 24/7
Just because your phone beeps or a new email comes in, doesn’t mean you need to immediately look at it. Checking the notification, even if you don’t do more than see who or what it is, is still an interruption. For some people, switching to silent mode for a few hours is enough to get focused and eliminates the urge to constantly check their phone. Set times throughout the day where you can check your email and other notifications.

Identify the people in your life who always have the right to interrupt you and set your phone up to reflect that. Giving these people a separate ringtone you are able to differentiate between your spouse or a just a friend calling without even looking up.  

Fight Fire With Fire
There are a number of different apps, websites, and other online tools that can help moderate and limit the amount of time you are able to spend browsing your favorite digital distractions. Utilizing these tools during your work hours, and even throughout the day, is an excellent way to stay on top of how much time you are spending and where you are spending it. A few to check out are:

  • RescueTime – a tool that keeps track of your online activity and can also be set to limit your access to websites that you label as distracting and want to spend less time on.
  • Forest – a productivity app designed to help people beat their phone addiction, in a unique way. Users earn credits by not using their cell phones and plant real trees around the world with the credits.
  • Goodnight Chrome – a chrome extension that automatically turns off the Chrome browser at a time you set every night and turns it back on again at the time you set in the morning.
  • StayFocusd – a chrome extension that restricts the amount of time you can spend on distracting websites. You set a time limit and once it is finished, the sites you have labeled distracting will be inaccessible until the following day when your clock resets.

So, are you ready to find your balance? It’s as easy as downloading one of the above tools, buy yourself a planner, and remove Instagram from the bottom dock on your iPhone home screen. Pick out a few of the ideas above that you think would work best for you and give them a try! Good luck, you’ve got this!

This article was originally published as a Good Deeds Day blog, and appears here with permission. Click here to read the original version.

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