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Having trouble focusing?
Here’s what the pros do!

How to keep the Internet and social media from hijacking our brains

By Mona Andrei

November 3, 2022

A funny thing happened recently. After my Inspades. A news column titled, The Rabbit Hole went live, and people were reaching out with questions.

“How is this even possible???”

“You’re the most prolific writer I know.”

“What rabbit hole are you even talking about because I want to fall down that hole!”

The post is about how the Internet and social media can hijack our brains and prevent us from being productive.

Here’s the truth: while I can relate to the rabbit hole analogy, I don’t actually let it control my productivity.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you and how the Internet may be affecting your life.

… it takes us an average of 23 minutes to get back into our flow after we’ve been distracted.

Scenario:

You’re working in the flow, maybe even feeling good about your accomplishments of the morning and then out of the blue, it happens. You’re over-taken by a sudden pull to check your social media platforms.

With me so far?

You head over to Facebook… Twitter… Instagram… LinkedIn… whatever… just for a quick gander and the next thing you know two hours have gone by. Not only have you lost time, but you’ve also lost your flow.

“No biggie,” you say to yourself. “I’ll just log off social media and get back to work.”

Not so fast, rock’n robin!

According to this Fast Company article by Dr. Gloria Mark, Professor of Informatics at the University of California, it takes us an average of 23 minutes to get back into our flow after we’ve been distracted.

Considering how many times the average person responds to smart phone notifications or logs onto their social media accounts in a day, we’re losing much more than the originally perceived two hours.

‘… since the advent of technology, productivity has become one of the greatest concerns of our time.’

Move over, search for the fountain of youth! We have another dilemma on our hands

Finding ways to boost productivity and achieve more may not be as ancient as our search for the fountain of youth. But since the advent of technology, productivity has become one of the greatest concerns of our time.

Here’s a thought: Maybe our focus shouldn’t be on how to boost productivity, but rather on how to avoid distractions; namely, our quasi-addiction to social media.

Have you ever wondered WHY we enjoy social media as much as we do?

Here are two answers:

First, because we love connecting with others. Going online gives us a way to engage whenever we need a little bonding time. And since it’s virtual, it’s not only easy, but more efficient than calling someone up on the phone and getting stuck in small talk.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

Hi. How are you… I’m great. How are you…

The second answer to why we enjoy social media as much as we do is because we have an inherent need for acceptance and validation. The developers and strategists behind our favorite social media platforms are very smart at exploiting a basic human need and turning it into profit. (The sneaks!)

Here’s an example: When you log onto Facebook, what’s the first thing you check?

If you answered, “how many people like my posts”, you’re not alone. This need for validation is an addiction. The “like” feature is designed to keep us coming back for more, giving Facebook a solid proposition for advertisers.

‘Here’s a thought: Maybe our focus shouldn’t be on how to boost productivity, but rather on how to avoid distractions; namely, our quasi-addiction to social media.’

Of course, we can’t “blame” Facebook or other social media platforms. It’s business 101: fill a need and make money.

But here’s what we CAN do: We can take action to avoid the distractions.

Four tips for staying focused

  1. Put your damn phone away.
    From the camera to texting and even the calculator app, our smart phones have become our go-to for just about every tool or resource we need.
    .
    Who wrote “Me and Bobby McGee?”
    .
    Enter Google.
    .
    AND our smart phone fits in the palm of our hand, making it a practical extension of ourselves. Did you know that the average millennial checks their phone 157 times – A DAY? The next time you sit down for a focused bout of work, try putting your phone in your desk drawer or in another room and notice how often you habitually reach for it.
    .
    Start putting your phone away as part of your work routine and I promise that you’ll soon discover a long-lost prolific side of yourself. Just like the muscles you exercise at the gym for increased strength, your focus can also be improved with practice by avoiding the distractions of social media.

    ‘Start putting your phone away as part of your work routine and I promise that you’ll soon discover a long-lost prolific side of yourself.’

  2. Turn off notifications on your computer.
    .
    This is a given yet not as easy as it sounds. I took the opportunity to speak with several social media enthusiasts about this and here’s what I learned:
    .
    People are afraid of appearing ungrateful if, for example, someone retweets a post and they don’t thank them within seconds. From a social standpoint, online mavens fear a loss of momentum when their posts are shared or commented on, and they don’t respond within a nanosecond. These responses are not exclusive to a specific age range. I spoke to Gen Zs, Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers. Turning off notifications on your computer, including email, will not only help you to stay focused, but also provide you with an efficient approach to deep work. Imagine, instead of responding to every email as it comes in, responding to several emails three or four times a day. What. A. Concept.
    .
  3. Use scheduling apps (but not exclusively).
    .
    Whether you’re a brand of one or managing a corporate social media account, being visible plays a huge role in any social media strategy. Scheduling apps such as Hootsuite and SocialOomph provide a great solution for planning your social media posts in advance. As an example, taking a few hours on Monday mornings to schedule the majority of your posts for the week can go a long way in helping to manage your time on social media.
    .
    That said, it’s important to remain authentic since people like to engage with “humans”. For this reason, blending scheduled posts with minimal real-time updates will ensure an approachable profile and relatable content. The challenge with real-time posts is in finding the discipline to not allow yourself to fall down that damn rabbit hole. The key is to quickly pop in, post, and log out – without worrying about immediate likes and shares. There’s always time to monitor engagement later.

    ‘… a set scheduled time to indulge in social media can help curb the craving throughout the day when you want to focus on deliverables.’

  4. Give yourself permission to indulge in the distractions.
    .
    Productivity is defined as an ‘output of work’. This is seen as a pro-active approach to getting stuff done. Here’s some good news: passive action is also important. Going online to read articles and blogs, as well as following others’ posts and links is an important aspect to following trends in your industry, growing your knowledge base, and staying current.
    .
    Social media can also be a muse by providing inspiration. Early morning coffee time, afternoon lulls in brain power, winding down during the evenings… whatever fits in your schedule, making time for social media is part of a balanced input / output flow. And the best part? Just knowing that you have a set scheduled time to indulge in social media can help curb the craving throughout the day when you want to focus on deliverables.

These are just a few of my hacks for staying productive. And I’m the first to admit: some days I’m better at following my own advice than others.

What are some of your hacks for avoiding distractions? I’d love to hear. Share in the comments.

Feature image: Vectorstock

Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre – WestmountMag.caRead other articles by Mona Andrei


Mona Andrei, writer – WestmountMag.caMona Andrei is the writer behind Moxie-Dude.com – Life updates gone wrong. Or right. I’m undecided. She is listed as a top 100 humour blogger (even though she doesn’t only write humour). She is also author of Superwoman: A Funny and Reflective Look at Single Motherhood (Cynren Press) as well as the writer for a collaborative book entitled, Leave Nothing to Chance: 15 Principles for Success and the Stories that Inspired Them (Tremendous Leadership), which she wrote as a legacy project for two industry influencers. You can connect with Mona on Twitter or email her at Mona@MonaAndrei.com




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