Is technology killing your productivity? If you’re like many people, you probably engage in tech-related activities that whittle away at your productivity sometimes (if not all the time). There are lots of tempting gadgets, devices, and machines surrounding us, which makes it very easy to get distracted. To help you ward off tech temptations that lower your productivity, here’s a list of top 10 must-avoid tech mistakes and some useful organizational tips.
1. Checking Social Media Sites at the Wrong Time & Places
It’s true, you get a squirt of dopamine every time you check a social media site and have a fun exchange with a friend or colleague. However, that very thing makes you more likely to interrupt productive work to constantly check in. In short, it’s addictive. Protect yourself from the addictive side of social media and outline clear guidelines for using it. For example, allow yourself to check it at 9am, noon, and after 8pm. Limit yourself to five or ten minutes tops. If you find you are having a difficult time doing this, install some blocking software like Concentrate or Freedom that locks you out of social media while you are working on important tasks.
2. Checking Email Compulsively
This is one of those things that has become so embedded in many people’s habits that they don’t even realize they are doing it. But studies show that every time you interrupt a task by doing something like switching to email each time you hear the inbox alert it takes you at least 20 minutes to get re-focused on the task you abandoned. The average worker spends 1 hour 47 minutes every day on email. But the constant switching means you’ll waste an additional 96 minutes as you try to get back on task. Imagine what you could do with an additional hour and a half every day…
3. Turning on All App Notifications
There’s no easier way to get distracted than setting up notifications for all of your online activities in each of your gadgets. In fact, notifications are more likely to keep you addicted to constant switching back and forth between tasks. Limit the notifications you set up to those that are truly essential, like calendar meeting reminders.
4. Texting Anytime Anywhere
Sure, texting is one of the easiest ways to communicate with other people. However, bad texting habits can torpedo productivity, and even put you in danger. Be strict about establishing clear rules for texting. Never text in meetings, during family occasions, while driving, or during any other important activity.
5. Dropping Tech Tools in a Heap on Your Desk
A messy workspace is one of the most notorious killers of productivity. You simply can’t focus with clutter around. In that spirit, don’t drop tech tools like your smartphone, iPod, or tablet in a disarrayed jumble on your desk. Designate specific areas on your desk for them. Ideally turn off all beeps and alerts so that you’re not distracted and reaching for your smartphone when you should be concentrating on something else.
We’ve alluded to it above, but keeping multiple screens open at one time and jumping back and forth between tasks is counter-productive. According to studies, multitasking lowers your IQ by 10 points – more than if you smoked marijuana! We recommend creating a daily task list at the start of each day (or week) and scheduling important tasks. When you need to work on an important task, shut down all screens that you do not need to have open in order to complete your task and turn the ringer to your phone off.
7. Sitting in a Non-Ergonomic Seat
Researchers are starting to find that people tend to hold their breath when they are hunched-over and work behind a screen. Holding your breath in this way, coined email apnea by experts, actually sets off the fight-or-flight response in your brain. When that happens, the part of your brain required for sophisticated human managerial tasks takes a back seat and your ability to concentrate on a task diminishes. We recommend sitting on a chair that supports an ideal sitting posture and deep breathing.
8. Surfing the Web
The world wide web is a procrastinator’s paradise. When you are facing a difficult or painful task, browsing interesting blogs or doing some armchair shopping can seem like a wonderful idea. Until you emerge three hours later with nothing to show for your efforts. Do yourself a favor and use blocking programs like Freedom and Concentrate to keep the temptation to aimlessly surf at bay.
9. Failing to Back Up
Hard drive crashes and data losses are a matter of when, not if. Should you find yourself on the wrong side of a disk failure without any backup, trust us, you are looking at hours, if not days of lost productivity (not to mention grey hairs). Do yourself a favor and set up a push-button backup that happens automatically every 24 hours. In addition, use cloud-based storage like Dropbox to ensure you’re never without the files you need when you need them.
10. Saving Files Willy Nilly
You know you have that file you need somewhere…but you just can’t remember where you stashed it. While the file search functionality has definitely improved on computers, it is still a time-waster. Do yourself a favor and establish a simple filing structure for your digital files. Organize by project, by clients, or type of file (e.g. Excel files). It just has to make sense to you. In addition, adopt a standard naming structure for your files as well. For example, give each file a descriptive name followed by the date.
Being productive in anything you do can be a daunting mission. But if you organize yourself in the right way and avoid the ten tech mistakes we mention above, you’ll be well on your way.