Dealing with digital distraction

Last week The Telegraph published an article on Shutting out a world of digital distraction which looked at how the internet is affecting the writing of works of literature. Its content is relevant to anyone who uses the internet.

This article peaked my interest in how I deal, or don’t deal with being always connected to the internet via my phone and what that is doing to my productivity and quality of life.

I thought I would share six mechanisms I use to try and pull myself away from the screens once in a while:

  1. Prioritise the hour before going to bed. This let’s my brain stop whirring. 
  2. Occasionally leave my phone at home when I go out on a weekend day.
  3. Set certain tasks to complete online in the next 30mins/hour/two hours.
  4. Sign out of my email account and Tweetdeck account when working on documents.
  5. Reminding myself the quality of my work may go up if I wait a little longer to respond to contacts.
  6. Listen to my girlfriend when she’s says, “Get off that damn laptop!”

Figure 1: Information is Beautiful’s clever graphic. I imagine the differing levels of distraction exist for all of us, each personalised to our favourite internet fixes.

Despite these mechanisms the below paragraph struck home far too much for me to be able to say I’m free of the distraction of the internet:

“[Neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University] We all like being acknowledged. Emails and messages reinforce that you’re worth contacting.” The little dopamine hit your body releases every time an email arrives in your inbox or someone tweets at you overwhelms the less immediately gratifying pleasure to be found in long, unbroken periods of thought and introspection, and we become hooked on distractions.

I’ve some way to go to say I’m more in control of my often habitual internet usage.

As a start towards being more in control I’m going to designate Thursday evening as internet free and see how I get on. Perhaps I’ll start on the pile of literature I’ve yet to make it through from Christmas!

Now press RT, I need the dopamine!

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3 thoughts on “Dealing with digital distraction

  1. Great post Alex – I feel the same. Somehow the internet has begun to regress me into a mildly insecure teenager craving the approval and attention of others. Most of whom I have little genuine connection with.

    I’ve actually just moved into a new place – with no 3G signal and broadband won’t be fitted for the next month. I can only imagine the amount of things I’ll acheive!

    • Too true, you’ll be a reinvigorated man. Works of art will undoubtedly come forth!

      I like your comment about not having a real connection with many online. That deserves some thought. Why do we value near strangers feedback?

      Congrats on the new place.

  2. Good points Alex.

    Leaving the phone at home at weekends is a good idea. I also turn off my phone and iPad at night and put them in another room.

    Although not very environmentally friendly, if I need to read a big document, I’ll print it off and find a quiet place to read it. And point 6 is very sage advice!

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