Digital Distraction Is Making Us More Unproductive Than Ever

I was recently interviewed on 2GB breakfast radio by Steve Price about the growing problem of digital distraction for Australians. I’ve received a lot of questions since the interview, so I have written this blog to expand on the topic and provide you with information on what you can do about it.

What is digital distraction?

Our phones, desktops, laptops, tablets and smartwatches, are stealing our attention and our self-control. We are continually scrolling, messaging, refreshing and liking - digital distraction is everywhere. On average, we check our phones every 15 minutes. This behaviour of never switching off our electronic devices is not only having a major impact on our mental health but also the economy as it causes us to become less and less productive.

Why are we so drawn to digital devices?

  • FOMO - fear of missing out. We feel like we always need to know what is going on and what everyone else is doing.
  • FOBO - fear of being offline. A lot of anxiety can be caused by just the thought of turning off our devices or leaving them behind while we go out.

  • Nomophobia - fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

  • Worry about receiving new information after everyone else, responding too slowly to a text or an e-mail, or being late to comment on or like a social media post

  • Every time we post, share, ‘like,’ comment or send an invitation online, it releases dopamine in our brain.

This leads to compulsive checking of electronic devices, disrupted sleep and increased procrastination. Procrastination is something everyone experiences but the extent to which we procrastinate is exacerbated by technology. Mobile phones act as a vehicle for procrastination - when we’re tempted to procrastinate, diversions are only a click away and temptations are abundant with notifications of new emails, messages and likes! Procrastination is, in turn, a contributing factor to anxiety.

It’s a growing problem

In my work at the Sydney Anxiety Clinic, I am seeing cases every day of anxiety caused by digital distraction in adults, adolescents and children. Today I am focussing on the impact that digital distraction has on the workplace. This is what I am seeing in my work through Mind Strength Coaching and Consulting, where I work with individuals, teams and organisations to build skills and strategies to achieve success, resilience and satisfaction professionally and personally. Digital distraction is having a major impact on productivity in the workplace and causing an increase in stress and anxiety.

The impact on productivity at work

  • We are more distracted than ever. Studies show that workers typically attend to a task for about three minutes before switching to something else (usually an electronic communication).
  • Research from Stanford University has shown that people who juggle several streams of content do not pay attention, memorise, or manage their tasks as well as those who focus on one thing at a time.
  • Doing two things well at the same time is possible only when at least one task is automatic. So, yes, you can walk and drink water simultaneously. But productive multi-tasking doesn’t mean we can check emails while on a conference call or look at your Facebook feed and trying to do meaningful work.
  • Researchers have demonstrated that the mere presence of a phone makes people less productive and less trusting.
  • We waste time, attention, and energy on relatively unimportant information and interactions, staying busy but producing little of value.
  • We’re so connected to our devices that 1 in 5 people take the phone to the bathroom!!

Getting the balance right

The answer to this growing problem is not to simply get rid of our digital devices. We know that technology is here to stay. What we need to do is balance how we use our digital devices so that it is doesn’t have a negative impact on our work or lives.

Control your tech rather than letting it control you

Role model desired behaviours

In meetings, put your phone and laptop away. When you’re talking to people at work, put your phone down so that you can give that person your full attention.

Wean yourself off

Allow yourself to check all modes of e-communication, but then shut everything down and silence your phone. Set an alarm for 15 minutes, and when it rings give yourself one minute for a tech check-in. Repeat this process until you are comfortable increasing your offline time to an hour or several hours.

Take a break

Research by Nathaniel Kleitman established that our brains work in 90-minute rest-activity cycles not only when we sleep but also when we’re awake. So schedule your work so that you can take a recharging break every hour and a half, especially if you’re multitasking with technology. Take a 10 minute walk, refill your water bottle or stretch.

Be productive and start today with a small digital detox - even if it’s 15 minutes.

To listen to the full interview with Steve Price on Radio 2GB, go to mindstrength.com.au

Dr Jodie LowingerComment
Feel like a “fraud”? You’re not alone.

Have you ever been sitting in a meeting and when you looked around the room, you thought “any minute now, they’re all going to realise that I’m a fraud and not good enough to be here”? If you have, then you’re not alone. It’s called the Imposter Syndrome and it’s particularly prevalent in high-achieving people.

The Imposter Syndrome describes individuals who are marked by an inability to recognise their accomplishments and abilities and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. The term was developed in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. Despite evidence of success, people with the Imposter Syndrome are convinced they don’t deserve the success they’ve achieved. They often think that their success is due to faking it, luck, being in the right place at the right time, or the result of others thinking they are better than what they really are.

That nagging fear of “being exposed” as not as intelligent, talented or deserving as everyone thinks, is a common phenomenon. Researchers believe that up to 70% of people have suffered from it at some point. Even Academy Award winning actress Kate Winslet has said: "I'd wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud."

So what can you do about it? Here’s how to overcome it:

rawpixel-com-369788.jpg

1. Stop comparing yourself to others

Comparisons are subjective and rarely helpful. In this age of social media, comparing ourselves to others is constantly at our fingertips. That person you’re comparing yourself to could be having the same challenges as you are but you certainly can’t tell from their social profile. Controlling your use of social media is an important step to ensure you are not getting caught up in endless scrolling and comparing.

2. Focus on the value of effort, not on trying to be perfect

You haven’t got to where you are now without a lot of hard work. So you need to remind yourself of the value of effort, rather than focussing on trying to be perfect. The fact is, no one is perfect, so why are you trying to achieve perfection? Your value is in your hard work, your individuality and your experience.

3. Pursue your goals

Don’t let your fear of failure get in the way of achieving your goals. Recognise thoughts as just thoughts, not facts. Acknowledge that worry just leads to more worry and serves no effective purpose and move forward aligned to your values and goals.

You’ve achieved what you have so far because of who you are and the effort you have undertaken and no one else can own that. So embrace your individuality and put a stop to trying to achieve perfection. Just knowing that you are experiencing the Imposter Syndrome is the first step to breaking through it. Now take the next step and put down your phone to be present and remind yourself of just how valuable you are.

If this feels very familiar and you’re ready to smash through fear and hesitation to achieve your goals, contact us to find out about our Mind Strength Leadership Coaching programs.

My 8 tips for living your best life

“I want to live my best life” is often the goal my clients write down and it got me thinking about what I think are the most important tips for living your best life. Here are eight tips I’ve learned about living the best life I can.

Be yourself

You don’t have to sacrifice your beliefs and lose who you are to be successful. Staying true to your core values is imperative to your success and happiness. You can achieve what you set out to without losing yourself along the way.

Be courageous

It takes a lot of courage to go after your dreams. Being brave doesn't mean being a fool. Take calculated risks. But being bold and a risk taker doesn’t mean being foolish; the key is to always protect the downside.

Dream big

Without a dream, there’s no vision. You have to dream big so that you know what you’re working towards. Don’t be limited by the current state of play as things change all the time. I have a big dream and remind myself of it all the time. Everything I do is contributing to that dream.

Be respectful

Your success in life is based on the relationships you make and the reputation you develop along the way. Be respectful of every person you meet and do business with. Every interaction you have with people around you matters, so be aware, be kind and always think of others.

Say yes

Yes is a crucial word. Even if I have no idea how I’m going to get there, I prefer to say yes and work it out along the way. It really leads you to amazing opportunities, meeting new people and doing things you could never imagine.

Have fun

Fun is something we forget about as adults, particularly when it comes to work. If you’re having fun, you’ll be more energised and it won’t feel like work. So how do you have fun in your work? Do something you’re passionate about.

Give back

It’s really this simple. Giving back offers huge personal rewards. There’s really nothing else that offers such a great return on investment than this. The greatest give you can give someone is your time. And it’s through helping others that you will often find answers to your own challenges.

Look after yourself

The only way you can truly live your best life is if you look after your mind and body. The key to your best life is your health and this has to be your priority. My health and wellbeing is paramount because if I can’t be my best self, how can I help others?