Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 29, 2021

How to Learn Effectively in the Age of Digital Distraction

How to Learn Effectively in the Age of Digital Distraction

One of the inevitabilities of modern life is that we are more accessible. The days when someone had to geographically find you first when they need to contact you urgently are long gone. Now, no matter where you are in the world, they can contact you via your mobile phone number, email address, or social media accounts. These cause what we call “digital distractions.”

In so many ways, this is a wonderful advancement of technology. Why would you not want to be available for your friends and family when they need you? And wouldn’t you want to know of an impending crisis at work as soon as it starts to happen?

Unfortunately, being available to everyone 24/7 can also be a huge drain on your ability to get on with the things you have identified as being important to you, such as learning and education.

In this fast-changing world, staying on top of the latest developments in your industry, being able to adopt new skills, and learning new technology need time, and time is one resource we all struggle to find more of.

These demands for our time from our friends, colleagues, bosses, and customers eat into our precious twenty-four hours each day and take a toll on our energy levels, leaving us feeling exhausted at the end of the day—not the best condition to be in when you want to learn.

So, what can you do to minimize these digital distractions and increase your focus?

Below are some tips and tricks that have worked for me and have helped me to keep up with the latest developments in education, communication, and productivity while minimizing digital distractions.

1. Learn at Your Best Time of the Day

This is the starting point for anyone who wants to embark on a study program, whether a formal college course or an online course to learn a new skill. What do I mean by “your best time”?

Advertising

It is easy for us to say to ourselves, “Tomorrow, I’m going to start learning Japanese.” We decide that when we get home after work, we will sit down for an hour and begin.

Unfortunately, most of us will find when we do get home at the end of the day, our willpower has diminished, and we just don’t have the energy to start today. So, we say we will start tomorrow. And the cycle repeats.

What’s Happening?

Your willpower is letting you down. Studies have shown that our willpower has a limit, and as the day goes by, we use up more and more of our willpower.

Making decisions about what to eat (and not eat) for lunch, telling yourself you won’t have that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon, saying “no” to a friend who wants to have dinner tonight (you can’t because you are going to study Japanese)—all these things add up throughout the day, and they deplete your willpower.

Finally, when you do get home, and the appointed hour for your Japanese study arrives, you just cannot do it. You’re exhausted, and you just want to finish watching this last episode of The Crown on Netflix. And the cycle again repeats.

To avoid this, understand the best time to do your learning is in the morning when you have the most reserves of willpower. At this time, you will find resisting all distractions much easier.

Whether you think you are a morning or a night person, the truth is your brain will always be at its best first thing in the morning.[1] It is when you are at your most creative, most focused, and have the highest reserves of willpower.

This does not mean you must wake up at 5 AM to do your studying. What it means is if you want to get the most out of your hour of learning, the best time to do it is soon after you wake up. So, if you wake up at 8:00 AM, try and do your studying between 8:30 AM and 9:30 AM.

Advertising

If you have to be at your workplace by 9:00 AM, consider using your commute time to study. You can always listen to podcasts, online courses, and the like on your mobile phone. The key is to use a certain amount of time in the morning for the bulk of your studying.

2. Turn on “Do Not Disturb” When You Study

You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? It’s common sense. If you want to get the most out of your study time and pay attention, you must reduce distractions—full stop—and that means turning off your digital distractions on mobile devices.

I do my reading late at night. I like to wind down the day with thirty minutes or so of reading. I use the Kindle app on an iPad Mini, and that iPad is dedicated to reading only. I have all notifications turned off, I have no social media on the digital device, and the only apps I have are apps associated with reading and my notes app, so I can grab quotes and ideas as I am reading.

I also use this iPad for learning. This means I can listen to an audio learning program and take notes simultaneously. Because all notifications are off, I don’t get disturbed and focus completely on what I am learning.

3. Change Your FOMO Mind

One societal issue in today’s world is FOMO—the fear of missing out—and that causes us to always feel the need to be “connected.” FOMO is one of the main causes of digital distractions. You must prevent this from creeping into your study time[2].

Tips for Minimizing FOMO

    You can do this by checking your messages and email before you start your study period. You need to get it off your mind and not be worrying about what may be lurking inside your inbox. Before you start, do an email and messages check. It will give you peace of mind knowing the world outside is not descending into chaos and that everything will be okay for the next hour.

    Note that I did not say “reply to your emails”—you only need to do a check. I know this is counter to many of the arguments about checking email and messages first thing in the morning, but the problem is if you do not do it, you will be distracted by worrying about what is in there.

    Advertising

    Put your mind at rest and deal with it before you start. Nine times out of ten there will be no emergencies.

    “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday” –Bas Luhrmann

    4. Tell Others That You Will Not Be Available

    You do not have to be available 24/7, and everyone can wait an hour or so for you to get back to them.

    I have tested this ad nauseam and never once has anyone ever complained because it took me an hour to get back to them—including my wife! The reality is, you are not as important as you think you are.

    When you tell people what you are doing and that you are not available, people will respect your time. This has been tested with clients, bosses, family members, and friends. No one has ever said to me “you must be available for my messages, calls, and emails every minute of the day,” and if they ever did, I would be questioning why they are in my life at all.

    Imagine you had to go to the dentist for an emergency to take care of an unbearable toothache. As you are in the dentist’s chair with the suction tube and drill in your mouth, your most important client called. Would you answer the phone? Of course not!

    Treat your study time the same way—no calls, messages, or anything else that will detract you from your purpose of learning.

    5. Turn Your “Should Do” Into a “Must Do”

    We all have things we “should do” and, invariably, it’s our “should-dos” that never get done when we run into digital distraction —“I should exercise,” “I should lose weight,” “I should clean out my closet,” “I should call my parents,” etc.

    Advertising

    All these “shoulds” pile up and never get done because they are not priorities. “Should-dos” have no urgency attached to them, so they fall to the bottom of the pile of things we want to do.

    If you want to free yourself from distractions so you can spend time learning, then your learning needs to become a “must do”—“I must study today.” When you change a “should” to a “must,” it becomes a priority.

    The trick with this is to plan the day ahead. We all have things we need to do each day, but not all of those things are priorities. Many of them are things that we would like to get done today. Before you close out the day, give yourself a few minutes to look at your calendar and to-do list and flag one or two things you must do tomorrow.

    Doing this the day before prepares your mind for the day ahead. You begin each day knowing exactly what you must do, and you are much more likely to focus our attention on those one or two items. Make sure your learning is one of those you have assigned a flag to, and make it happen.

    A good way to do this is to use your calendar for your priorities and your to-do list for your non-priorities. When you use your calendar for these, you are allocating time for them. When you have allocated time, you reduce your excuses, and they are much more likely to happen.

    Key Takeaways

    Remember to allocate your study time to the mornings. Your brain is at its best, and you will find concentrating much easier. Second, turn off all notifications while you are in your study time. Don’t worry, the world is not going to end while you learn.

    Tell your friends, colleagues, bosses, and clients that you are not available during your study time. And lastly, block time off on your calendar and make it a must, not a should.

    If you have a hard time getting focused and avoiding digital distractions, remember these tips, and you’ll notice improvement.

    More Tips on How to Avoid Digital Distraction

    Featured photo credit: Maxim Ilyahov via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Carl Pullein

    Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

    12 Simple Strategies To Improve Your Mental Clarity How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity How to Use Deep Work to Kill Distractions and Boost Productivity 7 Ways to Concentrate Better in a Toxic Work Environment How to Use Deliberate Practice to Be Good at Almost Anything

    Trending in Focus

    1 How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction 2 How To Create A Daily Schedule To Organize Your Day 3 12 Simple Strategies To Improve Your Mental Clarity 4 How To Increase Focus At Work: 12 Brain Hacks 5 The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Published on February 25, 2021

    How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction

    How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction

    Nowadays, if you’re not on social media, you feel like you’re not truly living in the 21st century. Everything from businesses to personal and professional relationships, social media has a strong presence—and with that, a luring temptation to spend even more time using its features.

    While it still provides platforms where we can connect with friends and family, it has exponentially grown to an online version of the Vegas strip: advertisements, videos, and links inviting us to turn our attention to the next latest and greatest trend or product. According to a recent article by Forbes, having a potent social media strategy is critical for businesses and consumers alike.[1] We make a tremendous amount of purchasing decisions based on content provided to us via social media channels.

    Likewise, we also tend to “follow the flock” when it comes to new trends, ideas, fashion, and unfortunately, even politics. While the positive side of social media is that we now have more freedom of expression, the shadow side is still just as present: we can easily lose our sense of individuality.[2] It’s a slippery slope—and one that often takes a bit of time and consequence to realize and change. This is why the term “social media addiction” has taken root in the health and wellness industry as one of the causes of mental health issues.[3]

    Social Media Addiction and How It Affects Health

    How we use social media has drastically changed since the dawn of websites like Facebook. Initially, Facebook’s platform was a simple way of connecting with friends and family and posting cheesy pictures or status updates on Facebook’s “wall.”

    Over time, however, with the emergence of a more picture-oriented platform like Instagram, we upped the ante. This is where the slippery slope emerged, and we’re still dealing with it presently.

    Advertising

    Take a look at some of the most popular Instagram profiles today. You’ll likely see a pattern of manicured photos and perfect layouts, followed by millions of users. This has become an “Instagram goal,” and it perpetuates the idea that beautiful pictures equate to a happy user. We know that’s simply not the case, but this mentality and desire to create a perfect life online for all to see is feeding depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

    Likewise, it’s causing us to lose our sense of authenticity and realness because the “real world” problems don’t make for beautiful social media posts. Instead, we hide behind the beauty that’s only covering up our sadness, grief, or loneliness. Because we’ve carefully created our online world, we’ve stepped out of our real one. Social media addiction is this practice of escapism.[4]

    So, how do you take back the reins of your life and curb your time on social media (and stop social media addiction)? Here are some steps to get started.

    1. Think About Why You’d Like to Be on Social Media

    Everything we do in life is about intention: why do you want to do something? What will it bring you? The same goes for social media use. It may be silly to ask this question when thinking about a Facebook or Instagram account, but if you want to truly control your social media (instead of the other way around), asking this question may truly be eye-opening.

    Do you want to just keep in touch with friends, or do you want to promote your business? Getting to the crux of why you’re online will help you clearly mark your time on social media effectively and eliminate everything else.

    Advertising

    2. Be Meticulous About Who You Follow and what you post and share

    Attention is your greatest currency. Read that again.

    Everything that you click on or “like” becomes a thread in the tapestry of what comes back to you on social media newsfeeds. You want to create the kind of information spread that works for you, your needs, and your time. So, often, we impulsively follow people who may not be serving our best interests.

    Give yourself permission to clean those contacts out every once in a while! It’s okay to disagree with someone. Instead of plummeting into a rabbit hole of social media thread arguments, unfollow anyone who you don’t connect with. It’s much better for your mental health and helps you get rid of social media addiction.

    Likewise, be meticulous about what you share. Are you posting misinformation yourself? Just like you are planning on cleaning up your contacts list, someone who follows you may be thinking of doing the same. Make it a priority to share and post things that not only have significance to you but also serve others.

    3. Curb the Time You Spend Online

    If you have a laundry list of things to get done but have spent the last three hours scrolling your newsfeed, it’s time to close the app or the computer. Set a timer on your phone, if that’s what it takes to solve your social media addiction.

    Advertising

    Once you begin the practice of detaching from being online so much, you’ll notice that you get so much time back! This time has always existed, but you were just using it poorly. It’s not that you don’t have enough time—it’s just that you spend too much time scrolling online instead of being productive.

    4. Change Your Notification Settings

    If your productivity is suffering because you’re constantly distracted by the pings from your notifications, there are ways to turn those notifications off in your settings. Better yet, you can always delete the apps from your phone and devices and resolve to check your social media notifications on your desktop. This way, you can get back to finishing your work without facing the temptation of checking your messages.

    5. Not Everything Has to Be Posted and Shared

    It often feels like we’re in a perpetual case of “FOMO” when it comes to posting on social media. If the Superbowl came and went and you didn’t post anything at all, will the world continue to spin? Of course.

    We don’t have any social obligation to our followers to keep them abreast of every single event that happens in our life. These are choices that we must make consciously and in alignment with our desires.

    Think about the last concert (in the pre-COVID world) you went to—did you immediately post bits of the concert to social media or snapped and uploaded a selfie of you and your friends?

    Advertising

    These are habitual things that we don’t even think about, which brings me to the final point…

    6. It’s Okay to Put Your Phone Down and Enjoy Life

    In fact, this one very simple point could truly help you cut that social media addiction! Precious moments of your life are one in a million—like seeing a shooting star or catching the smile of your favorite person. These moments are so fragile, and they never happen the same way twice in your lifetime.

    Don’t run towards your phone to capture that moment. Capture it instead with your eyes and with your heart. Let it become a sweet memory. Enjoy the moment you’re so keen on sharing with others and instead, prioritize sharing it with yourself.

    Final Thoughts

    Social media addiction, when left unchecked, can lead us to depression and lack of self-worth and authenticity. If we “follow the flock” in search of creating a perfect online life, we’re stepping further away from being ourselves. This brings about a slew of consequences, which can snowball over time and lead to worse obstacles in our lives.

    When we finally learn how to use social media, to what extent, and with what intention in mind, we can take control over it before it takes control over us.

    More on Social Media Addiction

    Featured photo credit: Ryan Plomp via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next