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Digital distractions - are they causing you a problem? - Life skills

In our homes and at work, even on the move, we are frequently overloaded with information, data, news and alerts – via our computers, phones, smartwatches and tablets. As I result it is not uncommon for people to find it hard to concentrate, struggle to focus on any task in hand and can become prone to procrastination.

Leading lives that are constantly ‘connected’ can have a very negative impact on our professional and personal lives. We find ourselves wasting valuable time and energy on often, trivial interactions and unnecessary information which can lead us to feeling unproductive and unfulfilled. It is undisputed that technology can be smart and improve our focus, knowledge and efficiency. However, having no boundaries over unwanted digital distractions can diminish our ability to maintain focus, decrease our productivity and struggle to remain undistracted at critical times.

The key to embracing the wonders of new technology is control. It is important to develop efficient and effective ways to utilise the information whilst still maintaining a professional and personal work life balance with minimal distraction from the digital world.

Focusing on more than just the task in hand often leads to reduced productivity and engagement – especially in the workplace. People regularly exposed to multiple sources of content at the same time are scientifically proven to be less likely to be able to efficiently memorise important information or manage tasks with constant digital interruption. Something as simple as a handwritten to-do list can be surprisingly helpful. Regularly updating it can help maintain focus over a long period of time and enables you to write down important and even distracting thoughts for you to refer to later.

Taking a digital detox is currently a very fashionable suggestion but requires considerable willpower. It would involve you being completely away from mobile phones, internet, television, iPads, Netflix and video games. If you can commit to a digital detox, you must immerse yourself in creative pursuits or work related topics in order to enhance your personal growth and education. Start with small amounts of time and gradually increase. If your digital dependency is quite severe, you may find the initial detox periods a little stressful.

But what if you lack willpower? It is particularly ironic in a blog article about restricting technology, that there are technology apps to help you stop being distracted. If you are someone who lacks willpower, there are ‘distraction blocker apps’ available for both desktop and mobile devices which can be set up so that specific website, browsers, social media and even the internet all together cannot be accessed. There is also software available for distraction free writing – perfect if you are studying or your job involves writing. Some businesses use schedule maker software and allocate specific hours where employees cannot access digital distractions such as social media – helping them maintain productive hours during their working days.

No software can replace good old discipline and commitment though. If you own a smartphone, try switching off all non-urgent notifications and social media notifications. Get into the habit of regularly switching to ‘do not disturb’. Try and designate specific times of the day to check emails and try to routinely unsubscribe from mailing lists that do not share useful or meaningful information.

MidKent College are here to support you should you need any help and advice about staying engaged in your study programme. 

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