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Last Updated on September 7, 2022

How to Deal with Digital Distraction to Improve Your Focus

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How to Deal with Digital Distraction to Improve Your Focus

We live in a time where digital distraction is everywhere. We have access to nearly anything and everything we could ever ask for. But we need to ask ourselves: Is this a good thing?

If you’re planning a honeymoon, looking for ways to build your next business, or searching to improve your physical fitness, having an endless portal of information is worth its weight in gold. But if you’re like most individuals throughout the world, the internet has become a source of ongoing anxiety, stress, and fear-mongering—a digital distraction that can have devastating effects on our mental and emotional well-being.

Here are some tips on how to deal with digital distractions.

What’s Considered a Digital Distraction?

With social media, we see what people want us to see, not what they truly are at all hours during the day. We see what news outlets want us to see with our newsfeed, especially if it’s skewed to connect with your views through a brilliantly designed algorithm. With our information, we confirm our biases through articles, podcast episodes, and reading forums that perfectly reinforce what we already know.

Yet, we have to wonder: is this good for us, for our brains, and our long-term growth?

Even with the recent advancements in technology over the last few decades, our brains haven’t changed much. The latest estimates suggest that our modern-day brains haven’t changed in over 40,000 years, which is a blink of an eye on the trajectory of life on our planet as we know it.[1]

As a result of this lack of change, our brains haven’t been able to adapt to digital distractions—this rapidly changing technology and fast-paced lifestyle—which was created to hijack our brain’s neural circuitry by creating continuous stressors that have devastating effects on our overall health.

In his infamous book, Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers, author Robert Sapolsky documents how stress affects both animals and humans. He essentially makes the analogy that stress isn’t bad in small quantities but repeated and chronic stressors over days, weeks, months, and even years can have detrimental effects on our health. And these stressors don’t even have to be real!

What does that mean? It means that perceived stress from anxiety, judgment, fear of missing out, and feelings of being inferior to others based on comparisons and social media profiles can have similar effects on our health.

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This is because the brain cannot truly tell the difference between a real or perceived threat. Thus, technological advancements rarely come without a hidden cost to the people using them. So how do we battle these invisible enemies and gain back control in our lives to improve focus and enhance productivity?

How to Deal With Digital Distractions

Here are a few tips to help you effectively deal with digital distractions and improve your focus.

1. Kiss Your Notifications Goodbye

In his hallmark book, Indistractible, author Nir Eyal goes into great detail about how social media companies ingeniously created “alerts” to seduce the mind into spending more time on a platform. Thus, the companies created increasing viewing times, leading to greater revenue and creating a dependency on updated information.

Much like casinos, these tactics heavily involve similar reward pathways within the brain, causing the user to become a dopamine-addicted fiend by using likes, clicks, and alerts to fuel an archaic positive-feedback system that keeps them coming back for more.[2].

So, how do you become indistractable?

To start, there’s a simple question you need to ask yourself. Do you actually need to know when someone likes a friend’s page? In the grand scheme of things, how impactful is it to see that you got 20 likes on your post from yesterday? And is it going to change your career trajectory if your friend posted a cat video on their TikTok page?

Let’s be honest, alerts are nothing more than simple distractions to take you away from the task at hand. So why not just get rid of them?

And this brings us to our next point.

2. Embrace Structure

Planning your day

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can be one of the most efficient uses of your time. Remember, structure is needed to accomplish your tasks because it allows you greater freedom, more free time, and makes it possible to meet deadlines.

Saving money may not be the most glorious habit. Still, those small habits of saving can compound into significant personal and financial freedoms later in life, essentially allowing you the freedom to retire from work and still have the financial flexibility to continue with life.

The same is true with using social media and digital platforms for enjoyment. Planning the times and duration for using these platforms can be one of the most efficient uses of your time because it creates boundaries.

Remember, influencers on social media platforms don’t have enough time in the day to be scrolling and creating content, but they make you feel like they do. This principle is also true for you, especially if you use digital platforms to promote your brand, business, or company.

3. Use Digital Platforms to Grow, Not to Show

Who you choose to follow on social media will dictate how productive you are when you’re not actively scrolling.

Why? Because your newsfeed will influence the emotions, feelings, and reactions to drive you either a step closer or further away from achieving your goals.

When digital distractions become rampant, they take you away from the tasks at hand and can cause you to feel guilty because of how they make you feel. Humans are social animals and can be easily influenced by their surroundings.

Case in point: Dr. Stanley Milgram performed multiple studies in the 1960s where participants were asked to induce a graded electric shock to an “unknowingly” willing participant in a separate room.

Over time, the participants were asked to turn up the intensity of the shocks, reaching a point of lethal shock intensity. Even at lethal shock levels, the participants kept inducing shocks to the individual in the closed room per suggestions from the accompanying individual in the room guiding them through the exercise.

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Why? Because when people have authority, we inherently obey their orders to feel connected and socially accepted, even if those orders involve drastic actions and near-fatal outcomes.[3]

Luckily, no individuals were harmed during these experiments because the participants in the closed room were actually actors hired to play the part of being shocked.

But this experiment is a powerful lesson for us all: authoritative forces like social media influencers and people with high follower counts have the capacity to change our behaviors.

4. Choose to Focus, and Your Life Will Come Into Focus

If you’ve ever been looking for a new car, you know how impactful intentional focus can be on accomplishing a task. It is at this moment when you realize that every other person on the road is driving the same car that you’ve been looking to buy. How is this possible?

The amount of cars on the road hasn’t changed. Your perceptions have. It’s always been that way, but once your brain starts to focus on a specific detail, you start seeing more of it manifest throughout your environment. This happens regardless of whether or not you’re looking for the good, the bad, or the ugly. What you hope to see is what you will eventually get.

When you focus your time and energy on accomplishing your end task, your brain will find things to reinforce this pattern, thus creating an inevitable positive feedback cycle that will take you and your game to the next level!

5. Stop Procrastinating – Use Apps in Your Favor

Website blockers and productivity apps are great tools to curb digital distractions. Many types of website blockers can help you disconnect and focus on your tasks at hand by blocking frequently visited sites or eliminate multitasking.

Mobile productivity and time management apps like Forest incorporates the Pomodoro technique and also has the deep focus option to eliminate all mobile distractions. Even utilizing the airplane mode on your phone is a great tool to help you not be distracted by unimportant phone calls and text messages.

Final Thoughts

So, the next time you find yourself fazed by digital distractions and lost in the digital rabbit hole, stop. Take some time to sit back. Put your phone away, and be truly conscious in the moment. Plan your day ahead and on the flipside, use digital apps in your favor!

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TL;DR

Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

How to Deal with Digital Distraction to Improve Your Focus

Our modern-day brains haven’t changed in over 40,000 years, which is a blink of an eye on the trajectory of life on our planet as we know it. Therefore, our brains haven’t been able to adapt to digital distractions—this rapidly changing technology and fast-paced lifestyle.

When digital distractions become rampant, they take you away from the tasks at hand and can cause you to feel guilty because of how they make you feel. Humans are social animals and can be easily influenced by their surroundings.

Planning your day can be one of the most efficient uses of your time. Remember, structure is needed to accomplish your tasks because it allows you greater freedom, more free time, and makes it possible to meet deadlines.

When you focus your time and energy on accomplishing your end task, your brain will find things to reinforce this pattern, thus creating an inevitable positive feedback cycle that will take you and your game to the next level.

Use digital apps in your favor including website blockers, time management tools, and even the airplane mode on your phone.

Featured photo credit: Maxim Ilyahov via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dr. Erik Reis

Co-Founder, Director of Health and Wellness at Nobody Studios

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