Tips for Protecting Yourself from Digital Overload

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Ding. Buzz. Buzz. Ding. Beep. Ding. Buzz. Beep.

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It seems like every 5 seconds; our phones send barrages of notifications our way. It’s a familiar feeling, wading through the mire of home screens or inboxes for important information. The world is speeding up at an exponential rate, and our devices deliver the information 24/7, 365, with breakneck efficiency.

Being in the know is an important aspect of working efficiently and productively. Technology has always been a powerful tool to aid in communication and the dissemination of information. Now that many workplaces have moved online, keeping the notification bell on has become common practice, and staying up to date has taken a paramount position at the proverbial conference table.

So, clearly, the more connected we are to our e-mails, news apps, and texts messages, the better, right?

Slow Down, Cowboy

On the surface, more and faster might champion the flag of efficiency. If the information we receive isn’t carefully managed, however, it can have the opposite effect. Are our collective efforts toward connectivity and efficiency actually hindering our ability to work in a productive and healthy manner? Yes, and there are very tangible detriments that come with being too connected.

Overstimulation is a dangerous trap people can fall into, especially now many of us “log in” to work as opposed to showing up. Nevertheless, overstimulation can be difficult to spot. People get too wrapped up in their work to notice, or they believe themselves to be caffeinated juggernauts of the keyboard (commendable but not sustainable). That’s why it’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff in regard to our digital modes of communication.

We’re Only Human

Here are the facts: We can process only so much information in a day before our quality of work takes a hit. We have limited attention spans, roughly 20 minutes. Moreover, a recent article by author Melanie Curtin theorized that out of an 8-hour workday, people are really productive for only about 2 hours and 53 minutes.

People have limits and need rest. When we subject ourselves to an endless notification stream, we lose the ability to disconnect and recuperate. It might be 10 o’clock at night, but your phone just buzzed, and it’s that file you had been waiting for all day. Now the file is in your head, and your head is no longer on the pillow.

Physical Health Gets Dinged, Too

Overstimulation also plagues people with physical detriments. Studies show it can cause anxiety, a significant drop in general energy, and depression.

Physical and mental health are vital in making sure a company’s culture is productive and positive. Subjecting yourself to an ocean of screens and notifications may seem productive, but it’s actually inhibiting your ability to work efficiently while damaging your wellbeing in the process.

Don’t Worry About FOMO

Traditionally, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out.” The term is often applied to social situations. All of your friends are out at the bar, and suddenly you’re scrolling through your phone, wondering where your invite was.

While the office is a little different from a bar, the same principle applies. Getting e-mails and texts all throughout the day, even when we shouldn’t be working, can create an anxious atmosphere. Did I do enough today? Why was this sent to me now? Maybe I should hop back on the laptop. The tension destroys the barriers between personal and work time.

How to Protect Yourself from Overstimulation

First, we have to kill the myth that more and faster equate to efficiency or productivity. That isn’t always the case. Oftentimes, they have the opposite effect.

Second, it’s important to set boundaries. When you’re done working, set your laptop aside. If you get a notification after work hours have ended, remember it can wait. It’s better to be mentally fit than to be technically swift. It’s all about moderation.

Technology is an excellent tool for staying connected and informed, but don’t allow it to have too much power over your lives and schedules. They’re phones, not instructors.

You can reach Aris Federman, a workplace/training analyst with PerformancePoint LLC, at afederman@performancepointllc.com.

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