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Why The Internet Is Killing Your Productivity

Why The Internet Is Killing Your Productivity

You can’t get by without being online. Our world is connected 24/7, and it has changed the way we live and work. When working on a project, it’s natural to turn to the web for answers or inspiration. The internet is a valuable tool, but it’s easy to find yourself distracted or overwhelmed by it.

Say, for example, that you’re working on a essay, and you need to do some research. Your search terms bring back 20 pages of results. Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour poring over more information than you’ll ever be able to use.

Maybe you notice a catchy title or an ad that draws you away from your work. You’re learning about the private details of your favourite celebrity’s life, or you’re buying the newest gadget. Time disappears and you’re still not done with your work.

We can’t live without the internet, so we need to learn how to live with it

Everything is online these days, and it’s so easy to Google whatever you want to know. We’ve gotten used to using the internet to find the answers to our burning questions.

You can’t even attend school without getting online. Online education portals and communication are a normal part of learning now. We’re so reliant on the internet, that we don’t always know how to find answers any other way.

Just 15 years ago, if you wanted to know the meaning of a word, you looked it up in the dictionary. Today, we just Google it. We no longer call a restaurant when we need to make a reservation. We go online or use an app to save ourselves a table. We don’t even have to set foot in a store anymore–we can buy whatever we need and have it shipped to us.

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Having internet access should increase productivity because we don’t have to spend so long looking for answers. The internet’s ability to make information available at your fingertips is a blessing and a curse. For many people, the internet is extremely distracting.

How often do you catch yourself with non-work-related tabs open? It can take you twice as long to complete a task when you are bogged down by these distractions.

    Addiction to social media is closely tied to our general addiction to the internet. Everyone is always on their phones. I’ve definitely caught myself checking my phone every ten minutes. I have to refresh my Facebook and Instagram feeds constantly because I am consumed by the fear of missing out (FOMO).[1]

    I know I’m not alone in my compulsive page-refreshing. By the time I get around to working, I don’t have enough focus and energy to put toward the task. If this sounds like you, then your productivity has suffered because of the way you use the internet.

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      Distraction can have long-term consequences

      Decreased productivity means that you won’t be able to achieve your full potential. It’ll take you longer to do your work, or you might lose the drive and self-discipline to take care of business. Chronic distraction can even rewire your brain.[2]

      The more distracted you become, the easier it is to procrastinate. While the internet is fun and stimulating, it will almost always tempt you from working on your most-important tasks.

      It just so happens that the internet has this effect on us because of our biology. The instant gratification we get from clicking, searching, and refreshing stimulates our limbic system and prompts the brain to release dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter.

      Using the internet is an all-encompassing experience. We use our hands to type or engage our touchscreens. Our eyes and ears are flooded with stimulation from videos and notification. This bombardment of stimulation hijacks our attention and leaves us seeking the next click.[3]

      It’s time to cut the cord

      The only way to stop the internet from taking up all your time and concentration is to disconnect. When you unplug, you’ll get your focus back, and you’ll be less tempted to waste time on things like email, instant messaging, and social media. There’s a time and a place for those things, and it isn’t all day every day.

      Impulsiveness and our tendency toward distraction originates in the limbic system. Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation calls impulsiveness the “cornerstone of procrastination.” The more impulsive you are, the more likely you are to procrastinate.

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      To combat procrastination and impulsiveness, we have to get our prefrontal cortex involved. We use this part of our brain to tackle difficult projects or plan for the future. There’s an even better solution to building focus than strengthening our brain against impulse: remove time-wasters before they take up your time.

      Unplugging from the internet is one of the best ways to prevent yourself from wasting time in the first place. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you are when you take control of the internet rather than let it control you.

      Tips for embracing an unplugged workday

      1. Disconnect when the work seems hard

      The internet rewards us on a neurochemical level when we avoid doing things that we don’t want to do. When you’re working on a high-impact or challenging task, disconnecting will be so helpful for you. After you get used to not refreshing your browser or checking your email, you’ll be amazed at the sense of calm and productivity that you experience.

      2. Put your phone away

      Lock it up, leave it in your bag, or put it in another room. Whatever you do, don’t leave it faceup on your desk. It’s just begging for you to pick it up, and the notifications are sure to draw you away from more important matters.

      3. Put your mind to it

      It’s not enough to put your phone away. Go into your work with the intention of having greater focus and energy. Setting your intention will also help you fight off the temptation to scroll mindlessly.

      4. Give yourself deadlines

      When you don’t have a deadline, projects can take a lot longer to finish. If you weren’t given a deadline, make your own. That pressure will help you focus and get the job done on time.

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      5. Close the extra tabs on your browser

      There are probably a few tabs that you don’t need to have open on your screen right now. Each one is an invitation to click away from your high-impact task. Get rid of anything you don’t need–even your inbox tab can be closed for a little while.

      6. Prevent information overload

      There are an infinite number of pages and articles on the web. Don’t let them prevent you from taking action.[4] Put a time limit on your research. If you find an unrelated article that interests you, bookmark it for later.

      Bookmarking apps such as “Pocket” and “Feedly” are great ways to save online content so that you can look back on it later.

      The internet was made to improve your life

      The web has changed the way our world works. It’s a bonus that adds to the quality of our life, but it isn’t critical to your survival. Use the internet to be more productive and produce better work so that you can have more energy for the things you love.

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      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on January 13, 2020

      7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

      7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

      Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

      When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

      Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

      So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

      1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

      Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

      If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

      This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

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      Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

      It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

      Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

      2. Get Enough Breaks

      Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

      Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

      Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

      3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

      There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

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      When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

      Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

      4. Exercise Regularly

      Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

      Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

      In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

      In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

      This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

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      5. Get Enough of the Right Food

      You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

      When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

      To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

      Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

      6. Drink Enough Water

      Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

      When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

      The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

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      7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

      You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

      You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

      If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

      Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

      The Bottom Line

      Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

      These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

      More to Boost Your Brain Power

      Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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