How do you handle everyday internet and social media distractions?

With the internet, social media, our smartphones, laptops, etc. that has the possibility to distract us throughout our day, how do we even manage to get anything done?

Recently I have found myself beginning to lose my ability to focus as my attention was being pulled in many directions throughout the day and into the evening. I did research as to possible causes of this new phenomenon in my life and the life of many of you. Although my job is to get my clients' customers to engage with their companies and organizations online, I was finding that the very thing I was selling—the internet as a sales and communications tool—might have something to do with my challenge.

I was not a child of the internet, smartphones, social media and so forth, but recently have begun to notice how much of my life has become devoted to it. While at home, I use the internet while I’m reading up on personal interests, staying in contact with friends on social media, watching my favorite tv shows and checking my email. When I'm at the office, the internet is crucial for coordinating with my team, discussing projects with clients, keeping up with new trends in the communications industry and checking my email. In fact, I check my email much too often—before going to bed, before I get out of bed in the morning and all throughout the day, and sadly even while on vacation. Speaking of which I should really go check my…No! This is exactly what I’m talking about:  Maintaining a healthy relationship with the internet.

What I’ve found is fascinating and, in some ways, more than a bit worrisome.  When I first undertook this quest, I realized that I needed to identify what habits I wanted to break:

1. Obsessively checking my emails and project updates throughout the workday; and 

2. Getting lost in the social media world.

These things divided my attention at work and began to swallow my time at home. I went from one thing to another online and offline as I ran my agency. Often I found my brain overloaded with information and requests. Recently I found that I was having trouble concentrating on lengthy articles, I was only getting parts of tasks accomplished and I felt overwhelmed. And that, according to author Nicolas Carr, is the whole point; “The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention.”

In his book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicolas Carr points out that even as adults our brains are very malleable, “adapt at the cellular level to whatever we happen to be doing.” The more time we spend in the minefield of distractions that is the internet the more likely it is to affect us offline. His book isn’t a prophecy of gloom and doom for the digital age though, it’s an important reminder that getting away from the internet is more than just turning off your computer.

After reading articles and doing some research I have found 6 things that have helped me regain focus, be much more productive, lower my stress level and gain a sense of calmness.

1. Before the work day is over, review my next day--to see my check marks for that day and create my list for the following day

2. Exercise at least 4 times a week (to do something for myself)

3. Check emails in order of importance--putting aside the ones that can be taken care of later

4. Make a list of only 3-4 items that I know I can accomplish in one day--putting aside blocks of time to realistically get a task done.

5. Read my book every night, for me to me relax; and

6. Practice meditation or prayer to calm my mind and work on inner peace.

Has this worked? When I can do it; yes it does. At the time of writing this, there were lengthy periods of time where I no longer felt drawn in 10 different directions at once and I was able to remain focused with a sense of calm and control.

Ultimately, it is like everything in life, each of us has to decide what is too much.

There is a quote that I am reminded of from Woody Allen that applies; when asked what he believed in, he said, "I believe in the power of distraction." The internet fulfills that need.

Of course, I am not saying to quit using the internet, but merely sharing my experience and proposing ways to manage it when you find you are losing the ability to focus.

New York Times 
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