You sit at your desk but it took you a while getting around to starting that task which has been judgmentally staring at you for the last few days. You start but then your phone jumps with a text, which you reply too. You look back at the screen and that very important task just got a little uglier and scarier so you need a coffee to give you the kick you need to tackle it. While the kettle boils you have a browse through Instagram and the next thing you know you have travelled across the digital world to fall in love with the most amazing sustainable yoga-clothing brand in Australia (which you will realistically never order from). You remember that task so you rush back to it. You have a quick check on your emails before you get started again. You head back to the task. Your phone rings, you are disciplined so you don’t answer instead you note on a post-it to call mum back when you finish the task. You turn to the task again. You feel restless and your mind wonders. An hour has passed and the page is still blank!
Do you recognise this scenario? Maybe it is time for a digital detox.
Not only does this daily battle create the perfect platform for frustration, stress and self imposed pressure it is not the environment for a healthy mind. When you multi-task production of the stress hormone cortisol and the fight or flight hormone adrenaline increases. This over-stimulates your brain, creates more anxiety and uses up a lot of energy un-fruitfully. Also, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for concentration, ironically, has a novelty bias, and so loves getting sidetracked by new stimuli like emails, texts and notifications. For added irony it is proven that knowing you have an unread email in your inbox while you are trying to concentrate on a task can reduce your IQ by ten points. It’s been shown that the cognitive losses from multi-tasking are worse than the losses from pot smoking.
Lets embrace a healthy digital detox to make us more productive, calmer and smarter! In todays ‘age of distraction’ we need to implement skills to avoid digital overload and ‘digital stress’. More than creating skills lets make these decisions, habits. If you have a habit you remove the option for decision-making, the habit becomes concrete and non-negotiable. For example we all brush our teeth every morning, it is not something we question we just do it every single morning as a matter of habit.
Digital Detox habits
Limit distractions and give way to focus. It is time to train your concentration, the simplest way to do this is by staying on task. Set your top 3 priority tasks each morning and focus on one at a time. Do not allow your self to schedule a time to tackle task two or three. You focus on one at a time and only move on to the next task when the previous one is complete.
Turn off notifications and emails. Responding to emails immediately is you behaving as someone else’s servant. Become a servant to your work, your priorities. Introduce a Power Hour, two if you need! A power hour is where you tackle your emails for one hour at the start or end of your day only.
Release your creative goddess. By clearing your mind of distractions you allow ideas to bubble up into your consciousness opening your mind to creative thoughts and other peoples point of view to collectively deliver a richer body of work.
Work mindfully. Consciously bring your full attention into the present moment, rather than being distracted by thinking about the past or by worrying about the future. It’s also about learning to be less judgmental and softer on yourself. It’s simple but it can be hard to do in practice, but persist for the betterment of your mental health. Remember; you are capable of focused concentration especially when you have removed digital distraction.
Breathe through your day. There is scientific evidence to support the benefits of mindfulness and there is no better way to practice mindfulness than conscious breathing. Mindfulness physically changes the shape of your brain. MRI scans reveal that after eight weeks the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in the body’s stress response, shrinks and the prefrontal cortex, associated with the higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making, becomes thicker. The connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, while the connections associated with attention and concentration get stronger. Mindful breathing can enhance mental activities such as focus, memory, learning, happiness, positive thoughts and emotions. It also strengthens the area of the brain engaged in holding information, reflecting and problem solving. Every time you find yourself wondering into a day dream of when you feel the sensation of stress climb into your brain, take 6 deep slow focused breaths and start your work again. The more you practice this the easier it becomes.
Focus on one task at a time; multi tasking is no longer an admirable skill. Turn off notifications and employ the Power Hour. Open your mind to creativity and most importantly breathe mindfully for a healthier happier you everyday.
Lucy A x