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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.

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on May 20, 2019

      How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

      How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

      Time.

      When you think of this construct, where do you see your time being spent?

      As William Shakespeare famously wrote “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me…”

      Have you used your time wisely? Are you where you want to be?

      Or do you have unfinished goals to attain… places you want to be, things you still need to do?

      The hard truth is, that time once passed cannot be replaced–which is why it is common to hear people say that one should not squander time doing nothing, or delay certain decisions for later. More often than not, the biggest blocker from reaching our goals is often inaction – which is essentially doing nothing, rather than doing something. 

      There are many reasons why we may not do something. Most often it boils down to adequate time. We may feel we don’t have enough time, or that it’s never quite the right time to pursue our goals.

      Maybe next month, or maybe next year…

      And, before you know it, the time has passed and you’re still no where near achieving those goals you dream about. This inaction often leads to strong regret once we look at the situation through hindsight. So, take some time now to reflect on any goal(s) you may have in mind, or hidden at the back of your mind; and, think about how you can truly start working on them now, and not later.

      So, how do you start?

      Figure Out Your Purpose (Your Main Goal)


      The first important step is to figure out your purpose, or your main goal.

      What is it that you’re after in life? And, are there any barriers preventing you from reaching your goal? These are good questions to ask when it comes to figuring out how (and for what purpose) you are spending your time.

      Your purpose will guide you, and it will ensure your time spent is within the bounds of what you actually want to accomplish.

      A good amount of research has been done on how we as humans develop and embrace long-term and highly meaningful goals in our lives. So much so, that having a purpose has connections to reduced stroke, and heart attack. It turns out, our desire to accomplish goals actually has an evolutionary connection–especially goals with a greater purpose to them. This is because a greater purpose often helps both the individual, and our species as a whole, survive.

      Knowing why it is you’re doing something is important; and, when you do, it will be easier to budget your time and effort into pursuing after those milestones or tasks that will lead to the accomplishment of your main goal.

      Assess Your Current Time Spent

      Next comes the actual time usage. Once you know what your main goal is, you’ll want to make the most of the time you have now. It’s good to know how you’re currently spending your time, so that you can start making improvements and easily assess what can stay and what can go in your day to day routine.

      For just one day, ideally on a day when you’d like to be more productive, I encourage you to record a time journal, down to the quarter hour if you can manage. You may be quite surprised at how little things—such as checking social media, answering emails that could wait, or idling at the water cooler or office pantry —can add up to a lot of wasted time.

      To get you started, I recommend you check out this quick self assessment to assess your current productivity: Want To Know How Much You’re Getting Done In A Day?

      Tricks to Tackle Distractions

      Once you’ve assessed how you’re currently spending your time, I hope you won’t be in for too big of a shock when you see just how big of an impact distractions and time wasters are in your life.

      Every time your mind wanders from your work, it takes an average of 25 minutes and 26 seconds to get into focus again. That’s almost half an hour of precious time every time you entertain a distraction!

      Which is why it’s important to learn how to focus, and tackle distractions effectively. Here’s how to do it:

      1. Set Time Aside for Focusing

      One way to stay focused is to set focused sessions for yourself. During a focused session, you should let people know that you won’t be responding unless it’s a real emergency.

      Set your messaging apps and shared calendars as “busy” to reduce interruptions. Think of these sessions as one on one time with yourself so that you can truly focus on what’s important, without external distractions coming your way.

      2. Beware of Emails

      Emails may sound harmless, but they can come into our inbox continuously throughout the day, and it’s tempting to respond to them as we receive them. Especially if you’re one to check your notifications frequently.

      Instead of checking them every time a new notification sounds, set a specific time to deal with your emails at one go. This will no doubt increase your productivity as you’re dealing with emails one after the other, rather than interrupting your focus on another project each time an email comes in.

      Besides switching off your email notifications so as not to get distracted, you could also install a Chrome extension called Block Site that helps to stop Gmail notifications coming through at specific times, making it easier for you to manage these subtle daily distractions.

      3. Let Technology Help

      As much as we are getting increasingly distracted because of technology, we can’t deny it’s many advantages. So instead of feeling controlled by technology, why not make use of disabling options that the devices offer?

      Turn off email alerts, app notifications, or set your phone to go straight to voicemail and even create auto-responses to incoming text messages. There are also apps like Forrest that help to increase your productivity by rewarding you each time you focus well, which encourages you to ignore your phone.

      4. Schedule Time to Get Distracted

      Just as important as scheduling focus time, is scheduling break times. Balance is always key, so when you start scheduling focused sessions, you should also intentionally pen down some break time slots for your mind to relax.

      This is because the brain isn’t created to sustain long periods of focus and concentration. The average attention span for an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes. After this time, your likelihood of distractions get stronger and you’ll become less motivated.

      So while taking a mental break might seem unproductive, in the long run it makes your brain work more efficiently, and you’ll end up getting more work done overall.

      Time is in Your Hands

      At the end of the day, we all have a certain amount of time to go all out to pursue our heart’s desires. Whatever your goals are, the time you have now, is in your hands to make them come true.

      You simply need to start somewhere, instead of allowing inaction waste your time away, leaving you with regret later on. With a main goal or purpose in mind, you can be on the right track to attaining your desired outcomes.

      Being aware of how you spend your time and learning how to tackle common distractions can help boost you forward in completing what’s necessary to reach your most desired goals.

      So what are you waiting for? 

      Featured photo credit: Aron Visuals via unsplash.com

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