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Last Updated on October 12, 2017

“You Must Stay Offline To Read This” Offers You A Peaceful Place to Stay Focus and Read

“You Must Stay Offline To Read This” Offers You A Peaceful Place to Stay Focus and Read

Keeping up with a constant onslaught of notifications and texts is exhausting. We live in an age in which our phones have the same functionality as our computers. People can reach out to us 24/7.

The constant disruptions are overwhelming. Even when I am able to put aside email and turn off my notifications, I still get distracted. Looking up a piece of information can result in a 45-minute trip down the internet rabbit hole. Sitting still and staying focused for even ten minutes can seem like a Herculean feat. It can be hard to concentrate and consume meaningful content when we have so much content at our fingertips.

Not only does this constant wave of distraction feel terrible–it’s bad for us. When our attention becomes divided by the busy online world, we have trouble forming memories and thinking deeply.[1] We’re actually reprogramming our brains to perform on a shallow level by jumping from notification to notification.

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It’s time to unplug

Even though we live in a world in which you’re more likely to see people staring at their cellphones than interacting with one another, it’s possible to read offline. There’s no law that says that you must frantically scroll through social media when you’re waiting for your friends, standing in line at the grocery store, or hanging out at the bus stop.

Before smartphones became popular, we used to live offline most of the time. It’s still possible to do this–even with technology in our pockets. Many apps that you love already include offline functions so that you don’t have to use data or be connected to Wifi.

If you need further proof that reading from sites offline is the way to go, check out Chris Bolin’s Offline Only page. A friend sent the link to me, and I was immediately intrigued. When you go to the site, you’ll see the screen below.

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    It’s worth taking a look at what Mr. Bolin has to say about reading offline. The post will take you about two minutes to read, but it can transform your relationship with the internet. You can use this site to make unplugging a habit instead of just a novelty.

    Going offline promotes inner peace

    I didn’t realize how frazzled I felt all the time until Offline Only forced me to disconnect. For two solid minutes, I was focused on the words in front of me. I didn’t nervously click to other tabs or jump to notifications. I simply took in the words and felt my mind relax.

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    Being forced to unplug helped me connect to the present moment. This brief window of mindfulness helped me recognize that I needed to change the way I interacted with the internet.

    It was so satisfying to be able to step away from all the static of modern life and allow myself commit my attention fully to one thing. We are all capable of doing this. Even those of us who stay online for work can benefit from stepping away from the internet once in a while.

    Use the concept of going offline in other aspects of your life

    Unplugging from technology can radically change the way that you experience life. When you make the conscious choice to silence your phone and stop answering emails after hours, you give yourself the gift of the present.

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    I’ll admit that I get frustrated when I see a group of friends or a family at lunch together spending more time looking at their phones than talking to each other. Whenever you allow a notification to disrupt an in-person conversation, you send the other person the message that the notification is more important than they are. You miss out on the possibilities that come with being in the moment.

    Our personal relationships and our work benefit from taking time away from the internet. The more often you use sites like Offline Only to practice focus, the more you strengthen neural pathways in your brain related to concentration. You can undo the damage of years of mindless internet-surfing by adjusting to a lifestyle which revolves more around the quality of your attention than the quantity of items you view online in a day.

    Every distraction costs you time that you can’t get back

    A recent study found that the average worker gets interrupted once every three minutes and five seconds. A person can lose an astonishing 6.2 hours of productivity to the process of being interrupted, working to refocus, correcting errors from disruptions, and battling exhaustion from being so distracted.[2] Many of these disruptions are likely the result of unnecessary notifications that you can easily switch off.

    Don’t squander the here and now through mindless scrolling. Practice focusing every day. Build the habit of being mindful and unplugging with Offline Only, and you’ll be amazed at how much your work and relationships will improve.

    Reference

    More by this author

    Brian Lee

    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

    There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

    How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

    Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

    Why is multitasking a myth?

    The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

    Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

    You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

    Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

    We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

    Your brain on multi-tasking

    Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

    When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

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    But I can juggle multiple tasks!

    You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

    For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

    Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

    Why multitasking is failing you

    Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

    Multitasking wastes your time.

    You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

    In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

    It makes you dumber.

    A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

    You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

    This is an emotional response.

    There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

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    Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

    It’ll wear you out.

    When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

    We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

    How to stop multitasking and work productively

    Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

    In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

    Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

    1. Consciously change gears

    Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

    As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

    This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

    2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

    Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

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    Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

    This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

    3. Set aside distractions

    Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

    If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

    Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

    Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

    4. Take care of yourself

    We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

    Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

    In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

    5. Take a break

    People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

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    Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

    6. Make technology your ally

    Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

    Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

    The key to productivity: Focus

    Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

    Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

    If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

    How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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