Technology can help productivity or hinder it—it all depends on how you use it. And if you don’t use technology the right way, it can act as a shortcut to overwhelm.
If you’re not sure if technology is helping or hurting your productivity, here are a few questions you might want to ask:
- Does technology make you feel more stressed out than relieved?
- Do you ever “lose time” with technology? For example, do you ever pick up your phone to answer an email—only to look at the clock an hour later and realize you’re still on your phone?
- Do you find that technology distracts you throughout the day?
- Are you ever tempted to check technology (like your phone, social media profiles, or email)—even when you’re supposed to be working on another project?
- Do you use technology even when you don’t plan to (so, for example, on nights and weekends)?
- Do you check your devices first thing when waking up and/or right before you go to sleep?
- Do you spend a significant time responding to messages, alerts, and notifications on your various devices?
If you answered “yes” to most of those questions, chances are, technology is hurting your productivity—and adding to your feelings of overwhelm as a result.
If your relationship with technology is hindering your productivity instead of getting things done, there are steps you can take to get your tech use back under control (and minimize feelings of overwhelm in the process):
Put your phone in another room
Of all the technology you use, your phone is likely the biggest productivity killer—even when you’re not on it. A recent study found that having your phone nearby significantly decreases performance and cognitive ability—even when the phone is turned off.
That’s right—the mere presence of your phone is enough to tank productivity.
If you want to get more done, put your phone in the other room while you work. This will allow you to focus your attention on the task at hand, which will help you get more done throughout the day—and feel less overwhelmed as a result.
Turn off notifications
In the US, the average smartphone user receives 45.9 push notifications a day—and that doesn’t even account for text messages (people under the age of 45 send, on average, 85 or more texts per day).
That’s a lot of notifications—and if your phone is set to alert you every time one of those notifications comes through, you can expect a near-constant stream of interruptions throughout the day.
Not only do interruptions make it harder to get work done (it takes, on average, 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on a task following an interruption), they also make work feel a lot more overwhelming (one study found that after just 20 minutes of interrupted performance, workers reported higher levels of stress, frustration, and effort needed to complete a task).
If you must have your phone with you while you work, at the very least, switch off notifications.
Stick to one device at a time
If you’re the kind of person who flips through social media on your iPhone while working on your computer with your TV on in the background, STOP.
Research has shown that constantly switching between devices can damage the brain, lower IQ, and impact memory and cognitive function.
If you’re on your phone, be on your phone. If you’re working on the computer, work on the computer. If you’re watching a movie, watch the movie and put the phone away. Focusing on one device at a time will help keep your attention on the task at hand—and not feel overwhelmed with information coming from all your devices at once.
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