Being without the internet would be like going back to the Dark Ages. But while many of the digital tools we use come with huge benefits, they also have negative impacts. Just because they’re out there doesn’t mean we have to let them into our lives.
If you want to focus on what really moves the needle, you have to select the tools that support your goals. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, suggests using this framework:
In this way, you align the digital tools you use with your goals and harness the power of your attention.
“Attention isn’t scalable. Be selective about what you choose to focus your attention on.” -André Chaperone
Studies show that every time we go off task to check email, respond to Slack notifications or scroll social media, our minds need 23 minutes to get back to the same level of concentration. With the number of notifications and messages, beeps and buzzes invading your headspace on any given day, that’s a lot of time spent re-focusing.
Rather than switching between work and distraction, put some structures in place. Schedule internet time and don’t use it outside of these times. If you think you may be tempted, there’s software that blocks the entire internet for the times you select. If you need the internet for work, you can block websites and apps you don’t need to use during work time.
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter etc can be useful marketing platforms as well as connecting us to new and interesting people. However, not only are they addictive but they have a significant cost. They steal time away from us that could be spent with people who matter or doing things that enrich our lives. And they can prevent us from doing our best work. Limit your use of social media or, if you know self-discipline isn’t your specialty, think about quitting altogether. If that seems too radical, offload selected apps for a trial period and before reinstalling them ask yourself honestly just how critical they are to your success and happiness.
We have to be intentional about how we spend our time and where we level our attention.
When it comes to productivity, attention is your most valuable resource. Protect it.