Outsmart Your Smartphone: 4 Ways to Curb Digital Distraction

Reboot your natural brain power — without
totally untethering from technology.

man with bike looking at phone

As much as we’d like to believe that our ever-present digital devices power our productivity, there’s mounting evidence that our reliance on technology can have a negative impact on our focus, creativity and how much we actually get done in a day. 

Research has found, for instance, that we’re more likely to be distracted from work just by the mere presence of our smartphone on our desk. Having a hundred tabs open at once on your browser isn’t helping either: Multitasking slows our brains down by 40 percent, notes Anastasia Dedyukhina, Ph.D., founder of Consciously Digital. Plus, whenever we switch from one task to another, we lose more than a minute of productivity... every single time we do.

Not only that, but when we continuously outsource our knowledge and memories to our devices (we see you, Google), it also impacts our brain’s ability to come up with new ideas and store knowledge, says Dedyukhina. Finally, the sheer number of choices that technology serves up also wears us out: Studies show that when faced with an abundance of choices, it’s far more taxing for our minds to settle on one. 

Luckily, there are a few easy things you can do to reboot your natural brain power — and you don’t have to totally untether from technology to do it. “We need to re-introduce boundaries,” says Dedyukhina, who offers up the following four tactics: 

1

DISABLE NOTIFICATIONS

Turning off those attention-hungry pop-ups is the number-one step to cut down on your device usage. It’s a simple setting adjustment on most apps. And whenever you download a new one, make sure to opt out of notifications. Most smartphones also have time limit settings where you can choose the amount of time you’re allowed to use social media apps or games before being locked out. 

Can’t spend the whole afternoon without checking email or Insta? Then schedule these distractions into your day: Set aside five minutes or so at the end of an hour or when you complete a project to open those apps.

2

Protect your space

Make an unwavering rule to leave devices out of your bedroom to help you relax. Banish them from work meetings to inspire creativity and improve focus. Try to have lunch away from your desk (and digital screens) so that you are eating mindfully — and enjoying your food!

When you really need to focus, literally hide your phone — in a drawer, another room or your car’s glove compartment. The mere presence of your phone on your desk can decrease your concentration, Dedyukhina says.

When you really need to focus, literally hide your phone — in a drawer, another room or your car’s glove compartment.

3

Break the insta-response pattern 

Nowadays, it’s easy to feel like you’re being pinged to death. That’s why it’s important to manage people’s expectations about how rapidly you will respond. When you’re focusing on a project, enable an auto-response message if you’re worried people will expect fast replies. And choose just one or two social media networks to use to avoid getting texts, DMs, emails and other messages all from the same person. 

4

Allow yourself to log off

Thanks to our ability to pick up our phones and scroll, we’ve become allergic to boredom. But without distractions, creative ideas can develop.  

Remind yourself that it’s okay — and even beneficial — to be bored sometimes. Also, do more things that make you forget to check your phone! Spend time in nature, start a meditation practice, read a book. The less time we spend digitally distracted, the more our brains can solidify memories and store things we’ve learned. So when you pick up that book again tomorrow night, you’ll actually remember when you left off.  

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