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Multitasking in This Digital World is Killing Your Productivity

October 22, 2018

Multitasking in This Digital World is Killing Your Productivity

October 22, 2018

Business leaders may feel more productive with gadgets in hand, but research says otherwise.

The average person checks their mobile phone every 12 minutes. You’re always on alert for the next update, problem, or opportunity, and this constant fragmentation of your time is killing your concentration and productivity levels.

According to these time management figures published by, the average person gets interrupted once every 8 minutes. This study does not indicate if it factors in the time you needlessly spend on digital devices. Let’s say that it does, but I doubt it. Seven interruptions an hour, that’s 50 to 60 interruptions per day on average. If said interruptions take about 5 minutes to manage, you are spending around four hours each day on interruptions alone. As if that isn’t shocking enough, 80% of these interruptions are said to be unimportant. This is a staggering loss of three hours and 12 minutes of non-critical activity per day. This does not include the time it takes your brain to refocus on the previous task, which is anywhere from five minutes to 30 minutes.

Loss of productivity is one of the most significant issues for employees. What’s of greatest concern, however, is that we are becoming addicted to our technical gadgets and it is physically and emotionally damaging.

According to San Francisco State University Professor of Health Education, Erik Peper and Associate Professor of Health Education Richard Harvey, overuse of smartphones is just like any other type of substance abuse. “The behavioral addiction of smartphone use begins forming neurological connections in the brain in ways similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief–gradually,” says Peper.  

While you may feel as though you’re being productive when you change tasks every couple of minutes, this hyper-alert state has damaging long-term physiological effects. The constant search for digital stimuli results in what medical experts are calling “digital heroin” and “electronic cocaine.” Andrew Doan, M.D., a recognized expert in technology and video-game addiction who heads addiction research for the Pentagon and the U.S. Navy, says that long amounts of time focused on a screen can affect the brain’s frontal cortex the same way that cocaine does. “Depression, anxiety, and aggression have all been linked to excessive screen time, and can even spur psychotic-like features,” he says.

The concern over digital addiction is so great that it is classified as an official disorder in a growing number of countries, including Australia, China, Japan, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Digital detox facilities that treat patients who are unable to put the brakes on texting, tweeting, surfing, gaming, and the like are now cropping up in the U.S., so such a classification in this country is likely not far behind.

How to overcome digital addiction.

Short of checking into one of these addiction facilities there are ways to control or prevent this damaging addiction.

Battle the overuse of technology with technology.

There are apps, like the iOS app, Moments, that you can use to set daily limits and even force yourself off of your device. Your iPhone also has a Do Not Disturb feature. Another useful app is Silent Time, which will silence your phone according to your weekly schedule. Stowing away your phone altogether is an even better solution. This wearable device allows you to set up custom notifications so you won’t miss important calls and messages and can filter out the rest.

Use more than willpower.

We can promise ourselves that we won’t drift to the internet or respond immediately to text notifications, but that’s not realistic. Turn off your devices when you are working. Remember, 80% of interruptions are unnecessary, so you won’t miss much; schedule check-in times throughout the day.

Don’t sleep next to your cell phone.

Tempting as it is, having an electronic device at your bedside is simply not healthy. Many people report that they check email and social media immediately upon waking. Not only is the light of your screen damaging to your eyes,  but isn’t this behavior indicative of an addiction? Leave your phone or tablet in another room at night, this is a good first step.

Turn off notifications in apps.

If your phone pings you for every Facebook, LinkedIn, email, and dating app notification you’ll have a distraction every ten seconds. Even if you don’t immediately respond to the notification (not likely) the ping interrupts your train of thought. Besides, it’s very rude at the dinner table.

Get social–off of social media.

If nothing else, turn your sound off when you are out socially and professionally. Be conscious of your efforts to create a human connection beyond social media and instant messaging. Don’t miss out on life in favor of a virtual reality.