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Last Updated on February 16, 2021

How to Quit Social Media for a Happier and More Focused Life

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How to Quit Social Media for a Happier and More Focused Life

I’ve noticed that when I catch up with a friend, family member, or colleague, the other person will at some point ask if I saw what someone posted on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. My permanent reply: “No, I didn’t see it.” I’m sure some of you think I’m bragging about my lack of social media activity. There are certainly people who wear quitting social media as a rebellious badge of honor.

The fact, however, is that I’ve recently realized that by limiting social media, I’m leading a much happier and more focused life. Despite the curious looks I get when I tell loved ones I didn’t see that latest video to go viral on Facebook, I never once experienced a sensation of missing out, and here’s why.

The Upside to Life Without Social Media

I was recently reading an article about the cost of debt on happiness[1], and it reminded me of how certain things have a taxing effect on happiness. Similar to debt, there’s certain things that can be so distracting that it can influence your personal life and how you work in a negative way.

Less Distraction

At work, I’d stop what I was doing any time I received a social media notification. While one way around this would be to turn off notifications, use an app that blocks sites, or completely turn off my phone, I’d still feel anxious about having to check my social feeds.

FOMO is a very real thing. In fact, research conducted at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight found that even if you turn off notifications, you still feel anxious that you’re missing out.[2]

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These distractions may seem harmless, but they play a part in your productivity as well. Joanne Cantor, PhD, professor emerita of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of the book Conquer CyberOverload, said:[3]

“When we stop ourselves to check social media again and again, it really becomes another form of multitasking, and multitasking makes whatever you do take longer, and you do it in an inferior way.”

Greater Productivity

The American Psychological Association reports that multitasking, such as going back and forth between social media and a work-related task, can actually reduce your productivity by as much as 40 percent.

After quitting social media, you’ll find that you’re able to focus on a given task until it’s done, which will inevitably make you more productive and efficient with your work.

Enjoying the Present

Outside of work, social media distracts you from enjoying the present. For example, let’s say you’re having dinner with your family. Instead of spending quality time with your loved ones, everyone’s faces are glued to their smartphones like mindless zombies. That’s definitely not going to strengthen the relationships you have with one another.

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Here’s another example. You go to a concert or a baseball game with a friend or business acquaintance. You’re not deeply involved in this activity or, worse, enjoying the company you’re with because you’re too busy posting social media updates — or checking in to see what everyone else is posting.

Besides these distractions, I’ve also noticed that I actually have more free time. I’ve been able to use this time to read, write, or learn new skills that make me a stronger person, both personally and professionally.

Without social media, I’ve been more productive and able to truly enjoy the company of the people I care about. Also, I have felt less stressed and am sleeping better.

Sleeping Better

Research has found that social media is linked to poor sleep, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.[4]

This shouldn’t be surprising. We lay in bed scrolling through our feeds, comparing ourselves to others. On top of that blue light from our screens stimulating our brains, we get jealous and wish we were lying on a beach instead of preparing for work in the morning.

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How to Realistically Limit Social Media

I’ll be the first to admit that quitting social media isn’t easy. The fear of missing out, of course, plays a role. Even if you aren’t addicted to social media, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you limit. That’s actually the first step in being able to successfully limit social media: realizing you’re going to miss out on certain things.

Eventually, you’ll realize you aren’t as isolated as you believe. In fact, you may have even stronger relationships because your main communication methods are more intimate, like texts and phone calls.

Here are some steps you can take when building up to quitting social media.

1. Eliminate Push Notifications

This is a good first step to take when quitting social media. Constantly hearing the distracting beeps of notifications can create anxiety and cause you jump back on social media. Eliminating those notifications will get you used to staying away from your social media for longer periods of time. You may even find you don’t check it for an entire day!

2. Uninstall Social Media Apps

You should uninstall all social media apps from your phone and log out of them on your computer. This is just a simple way to remove the temptation to view your social channels with one click or tap. Though it will be a rough start, you’ll eventually experience the benefits of not being tied to social media.

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3. Find New Distractions

When quitting social media, start looking for other ways to distract yourself so that you can avoid dwelling on the anxiety of being away from your feed. Pick up a new hobby, meditate, exercise, volunteer, read a book, or actually meet to catch up with a friend face-to-face.

Not only do these activities give you something else to focus on, but they also allow you to strengthen your existing relationships and establish new, more meaningful ones.

As you’re learning to live a life without social media, you can check out Lifehack’s free Fast Track Class – Overcoming Distractions to help you train up your focus muscle. Join the free class today!

Final Thoughts

If you feel you need social media to stay in the loop, seek out alternatives like newsletters or RSS feeds that are relevant. If you have to establish a social media presence professionally, set boundaries, such as logging in once a week to check messages and schedule the following week’s content. You can also delegate or outsource your social media responsibilities so you can remain free of social media.

You can live without social media, and it’s probably for the best. However, it is an adjustment. You’ll miss out on certain things, but you’re also going to be happier and more focused because you’ll be less distracted and stressed. You’ll also be more productive and fulfilled.

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To ease your way into this, don’t go cold turkey. Limit your time on social media, and then suspend your accounts for a week, then maybe two, then possibly permanently. As you’ll see, it’s not the end of the world and will do wonders for your mental health.

Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on October 4, 2021

How to Stay on Task And Avoid Distractions

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How to Stay on Task And Avoid Distractions

It has become more challenging to stay on task and avoid distractions. Unfortunately, the great benefits of today’s technologies have also become the biggest enemies of focused action. The pandemic has, of course, made its own corrections in the way we manage our time, business, family, and life. Did you know that the time-tracking market will increase worldwide by roughly 21 percent by 2025?[1]

With more and more distractions appearing in our daily lives, it’s understandable that people keep pushing themselves to squeeze every minute out of the day. But only a few realize that outside distractions are fairly easy to avoid compared to our inner triggers.

Mistakenly, we blame only outside distractions, thinking that they mess with our ability to stay on task and make it almost impossible to avoid them. However, our inner triggers are what play the biggest role in focused and productive action. While external triggers are cues from our environment that tell us what to do next, inner triggers are cues from within us. For example, when we’re hungry, we are cued to get something to eat and so on. Understanding what kind of trigger is pursuing you to take certain actions will help you determine the best solution to stay on task.

While distractions are everywhere, it’s not impossible to minimize them. Distractions itself is a topic long, wide, and deep enough for a book at least. On Amazon alone, there are more than 9000 books with a “distraction” on the cover. This once again proves our need for solid tools, systems, and new approaches to help us stay on task and avoid distractions.

Here is my formula for you to stay on task. It is not your typical “turn off your phone” and “close your emails” type of list. This formula has been crafted over years of experience, research, and knowledge. It looks deeper than external pings, rings, and dings.

I aim to give you a different perspective on how you are managing your time, attention, and decision-making. If used with one mind and willingness to truly build a skill to stay on task, this formula might be just the right read for you.

1. Manage Your Attention Before Trying to Manage Your Time

We can manage our time better if we can manage our attention. Time management depends a lot on attention, focus, and flow management, rather than planning and scheduling. Although technical support is a big part of focused action, if we lack prioritizing and attentiveness, we will eventually waste time one way or the other and make it difficult for us to stay on task. Therefore, getting clear on our intention behind the task is crucial for staying on it and not getting distracted.

Do you want to be more productive and feel good about what you accomplish at the end of the day? Do you want to have time to learn a new skill, building a better service so you can create more impact? Do you want to protect yourself from distraction, unwanted information, and more wasted time? Whatever your reasoning, if you can focus, you can get more important things done in less time. In that way, the focus is the ultimate “productivity hack.”

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We all have the same 24 hours. But what matters more than the length of time you put into a task is the intensity of focus because if you have an intensity of focus, you can reduce the amount of time spent doing it to get the same or better results. Even if you’re not in a state of flow, focus helps you get more out of the day.

A study from the University of California at Irvine found that, on average, participants (who worked in the tech field) could only work on a project for 11 minutes before being distracted. What’s worse is that it took them more than 25 minutes to regain their focus.[2]

Focus keeps you productive. It’s what determines whether you do what you want to or spend the day distracted. But it goes much deeper than this.

Being focused allows us to choose the life we want to live, not just react to what’s happening around us. So, let me give you some ideas on how to increase your attentiveness. If you want to improve your focus, you have to do more than just make yourself pay attention. Focus is as much about what you’re paying attention to as what you’re blocking out because unfortunately, the world around us is incredibly distracting and it makes challenging for our brain to focus on a task.

Learn How to Take Control of Your Technologies

There is no escaping from technology, but we need to understand that it is here to serve us, not the other way around. Many of the default settings on our devices are set to take our attention away, and it’s up to you to change them.

Create a Focus-Friendly Work Environment

This plays a massive role in your ability to focus., yet most of us don’t think much of it. Getting rid of clutter, organizing your stuff so you don’t waste time trying to find things, avoiding outside noise and unnecessary interruptions are what will help you stay on task.

Stop Multitasking

If you haven’t heard it enough times already, multitasking is a myth. When we try to do more than one thing at a time, we’re just quickly switching back and forth between the tasks. This isn’t very efficient, and it makes us more stressed. Even worse, the more you multitask, the more your brain looks for more things to do at once. It’s like your training your brain to be unproductive. However, focusing on one task at a time rebuilds your focus, lowers stress, and can even make you more creative.

2. Declutter Your Mind as Well as Your Desk

Clear space creates a clear head. It increases productivity and saves us from distractions. But clearing your desk is very technical. It’s fairly easy doable and repeatable. If you have a system in place that you love, you would only have to declutter once, and then you would just follow your path where clutter gets thrown away regularly. This allows for constant rotation of creative energy giving you space to evolve.

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However, a tidy space actually can keep you on the task only for that long. It can give you only that much of a clear head and distraction-less space. While it immensely helps to shift the energy, it will not keep you distraction-less forever, and this is where your mindset comes in. The “clear space creates clear head” is only partly true.

Clear space gives us more clear mind for that moment, but this is not your long-term solution. If you would have managed to keep your workspace clean, clutter-free, you would still have thoughts. According to research, an average person has 6000 thoughts every day![3]

Will a decluttered space be able to help you with all of them? No! But this is where the mindset work comes in. No tool, tip, trick, or hack will be able to solve your timing or focus issues. Only you can do that because you are the one in charge of your time, your commitments, your schedule, your plan, and also your mind.

If you ever tried to meditate, you know that it takes time to clear your head from thoughts, calm the mind, and thrive in presence. And it is definitely one practice that can help you understand how your mind works. If you are having difficulty staying on task, then it’s time to look for the cause.

If you think that another great new productivity app will solve your problems and you will finally be able to stay on task, it will not support your long-term vision. Yes, it might help for a month or two, but then what? Are you willing to go back and search for other solutions while your to-do list keeps growing and your time freedom is non-existent?

It is great to start by decluttering the mind. Support it with decluttered space on your way to great focus and productive work. Ask yourself: What is blocking you from undivided attention? Have you ever thought that you could be keeping yourself busy to feel worthy of your income? It’s a clue to your limiting beliefs! Imagine if you could replace that with a success mindset, how would your focus increase? It’s taking one mindset block at a time and working through it.

3. Work on Your Pain

What does pain have to do with focus? We waste our time when we get distracted, and we get distracted all the time. Imagine how much you would be able to achieve if you would stay focused on the task for that scheduled time, commit to that task and get it done. Who knows? You might even finish it in half the time you planned.

But let me explain to you something about pain. We allow ourselves to get distracted because it’s our decision to check that ping, ring, and ding. We decide to focus somewhere else when that ring comes knocking. We make that choice because of the pain. We feel discomfort, and we all love comfort, right? Our natural way of avoiding pain and discomfort is what makes us lean towards distractions rather than stay on task. It’s worth looking deeper and understand what are the underlying issues that you’re trying to avoid when distracted.

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Working on that pain will help you stay focused and committed to even the hardest of tasks. If you’re committed to your growth in all areas, it’s up to you to stay on task even when you don’t feel like it.

I challenge you to look where that pain is coming from that causes you to get distracted. Find it, and let it go so you can be attentive, present, and focused.

4. Rewrite Your Habits

We are in charge of building our success habits, so what are you working on today to allow yourself to stay on task with as little effort as possible? Below are the most common distracting habits that probably have been creeping into your daily routine as well.

Stop Adding Things to Your To-Do List

To-do lists give you too much flexibility, too much freedom of choice, and too much space for procrastination to creep in. Everything you’re planning to do, schedule it in your calendar instead. Plan your tasks, and put timing next to every task. Like that, you will create space for important tasks, prioritize wiser, and won’t be able to overbook your time.

If you think about it, putting your tasks into your calendar creates well-deserved peace of mind, gives you much more freedom, and keeps you productive. You’re no longer overshadowed by your never-ending to-do list that keeps growing by minutes and never gets completed. Staying committed to your calendar is a part that can’t be avoided if you want to stay on task. If it’s on your calendar, you have already committed to doing it. You have already decided that something is important enough to get on our calendar, so it’s worth your focus.

Stop Notifying Yourself and Scrolling Your Screen

Checking notifications, emails, messages as they come in. That “beep” sound distracts you in a fraction of a second, but unfortunately, it takes much longer to get back into your creative flow after an innocent “I will just quickly check-it might be urgent.”

For better productivity, you should set certain times when you allow yourself to check emails and it should not be more than twice a day. Seriously, it is enough times (I’m talking from experience). Scrolling through social media is nothing new, yet it still is the biggest time-waster. You get sucked into random posts only to realize that another 20 minutes have passed without creating results for your future. Mind your own business (literally), and create before you consume.

Stop Acting Like You’re Superhuman

Multitasking is not an admirable ability, it’s destructive behavior. You have probably heard about it, but let me remind you again: trying to do more than one thing at a time diminishes your productivity. The human brain simply isn’t designed to multitask. Your brain slows down as it switches between tasks, which takes more time and makes you less efficient.

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Focusing on one thing at a time will make you more effective. If you’re taking too many breaks, you end up lingering and not getting your focus back. Schedule your break to keep yourself in check and focused. Too many breaks lead to more wasted time. Oftentimes, it means working when exhausted. All it does is create more exhaustion and more mistakes. You may also end up facing burnout.

Do yourself a favor and make sleep a priority. The time you spend resting will pay off when you’re awake and ready to take on the world. Once you are clear on what wasted your time, create a to-don’t list to get clear on things you know you should not be doing.

5. Find Traction

We are used to thinking that the opposite of distraction is focus—where we are fully present, attentive, and focused on what it is that we are doing. But the opposite of distraction is actually “traction,” and traction from Latin is an action that pulls you towards what you want to do. So, distractions are actions that pull you away from what you want to do, and tractions are actions that move you towards what you want to do. This means that any action can be either a distraction or traction depending on what you intend to do with your time.

There’s nothing wrong with scrolling through your Facebook feed, watching YouTube videos, or playing a video game, as long as that’s what you intend to do. It’s when you do things unintentionally that you get into trouble. When you get pulled away from what you need to do to avoid discomfort, to avoid that hard work or that pressure dealing with a specific task, that’s when you allow yourself to get distracted.

So, if you’re asking if it’s possible to avoid distractions, the answer is yes. But you don’t want to do it! You want to notice these moments of discomfort and understand what causes you to get distracted. What are you trying to avoid? Why are you letting yourself get pulled away from things that you need to do?

If we dig deeper, we can see things for what they are, including ourselves, our believes, our thoughts, and anything that sabotages our focus without us realizing it.

Final Thoughts

Distractions are a very wide range of things. They are everywhere, looking for you to bring your attention to them. The good news is that you can stay on task if only you choose to. You are in charge, and now that you have a better insight into your triggers, it will hopefully allow you to get less distracted and more focused.

No matter what your distractions are, you are in control of your time, what you do with it, and where you spend it. Be sure to keep that control in your hands.

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More Tips on Improving Your Attention

Featured photo credit: Surface via unsplash.com

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