We all know that technology can be a rabbit hole of endless distraction. Between social media posts, email notifications, and YouTube videos, it’s hard to not let your mind wander. But all of that browsing isn’t as innocent as it seems: It not only kills productivity but can actually sap your brainpower.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way! With a little awareness and a few simple fixes, you can be back on your way to optimal mental function and amazing productivity.
Here are three online habits that are eating away at your time (and sanity) and what you can do about it:
Getting distracted by the Internet
Most of us have access to a computer as part of our jobs (and sometimes a tablet or smartphone). And while constant access to all of the information in the world can be helpful, it can also be a huge time suck.
Quickly scroll through your Instagram feed. Google that cool new song you just heard on the radio. Browse the menus on GrubHub so you can figure out lunch. Shoot a quick email to your buddy to set up weekend plans. Hop onto Amazon and order that book you’ve been meaning to get.
It can seem harmless at the time, but all of those little breaks add up to a huge loss of time. That seems obvious, right? But you might be surprised to learn that all of that browsing can also lessen your brain power and focus. Research shows that it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back on task after being interrupted – that means your 30-second Instagram break is really a 25 minute and 30 seconds Instagram break.
What can you do to help? Some people find it useful to write down exactly what they need to lookup online so they stay on task. You can also turn off notifications, set certain times of day to check emails, and even delete your most tempting apps if necessary.
Be honest: How many tabs do you have open on your desktop or smartphone right now? Ten? Twenty? More?
Technology makes it way too easy to hop from one task to the next: Check an email, work on a report for a couple of minutes, read a few lines of an article, go back to the report, start to make travel arrangements for an upcoming conference. You feel like you’re really busy, but nothing actually gets done.
Multitasking may seem like a great work strategy, but in reality, you’re only giving partial attention to each task. Nothing you do gets your best effort. In addition, hopping from job to job drains your mental resources by constantly shifting thoughts. This makes working on several things at once surprisingly counterproductive.
What can you do about it? Stop multitasking! Easier said than done, right? Many people find that time blocking, or the act of scheduling a chunk of time to work on one particular task helps. Shutting off notifications or blocking distracting apps can be beneficial in this situation, as well.
Using too many tools
You can’t have too many automation and productivity tools, right? There are hundreds of free apps and programs available online, all guaranteed to add time back into your day – why wouldn’t you just download them all?
When you have an excess of tools, say more than four or five, you actually start to hurt yourself. When you use too many tools, you’ll spend all of your time managing them instead of doing any work: You’re basically multitasking with tools instead of tasks.
What can you do about it? Limit yourself to just a few essential tools that truly improve your ability to do your job well.
Do you have any of these brainpower busting habits? Are there any that you think we’ve missed? How do you deal with them?