We often don’t even realise that we’re digitally distracted, or notice how much our behaviour has changed. But by being aware of this, and making simple changes, we can make a huge difference to our productivity, health, and relationships.
These are 10 signs you could be suffering from digital distraction.
1) You have a vice-like grip on your phone
You carry your phone with you at all times – often actually in your hand. As soon as it beeps, rings, or buzzes, you respond to it.
2) Your phone is like a piece of cutlery
At the dinner table, it’s knife, fork and phone set out at the table. One portion of your awareness rests at all times on your phone, despite the other people at the table. You think nothing of checking messages or browsing the internet in front of others.
3) Q and A: Ask Google
If someone asks you a question, or if a question comes to mind, your first response is to ask Google. You don’t think for yourself to see if you know the answer or to work out where to find the answer. You are impatient for an instant answer.
4) Of course we can multi-task
Doing at least two things at once – such as leaving your email inbox open while you’re working on a document, or sending texts while you’re talking with a friend – is a way of life for you. 100% attention on just one thing? Unheard of …
5) Blame the bad memory
Recently, your memory seems to have been getting worse. Things slip your mind. You forget to reply to messages, and even forget the contents of messages you’ve read. “I told you that,” people say, exasperated. But you have absolutely no recollection of it.
6) Document not attached
You send an email, about an attachment, and just as you hit send, you realise you forgot to attach the attachment. Variations on this theme include sending an email to the wrong person or hitting reply all instead of reply.
7) You never get anything done
These days, it seems, there’s never time to finish a task. It can take you hours or even days to complete something relatively simple. You find you end up working late at night, early in the morning, or at the weekend “when there are no interruptions” just to get the basics done. You know you are being unproductive.
8) Thinking time is non-existent
A thought pops in to your head. It’s the beginning of a good idea. But then – BAM! – it gets interrupted as your phone buzzes or pings. The half-thought is banished – never to be returned to – as you scurry to answer the digital demand.
9) What’s a holiday?
You take your emails and updates with you to bed, to breakfast, right through Saturday and Sunday and even on annual leave. You never actually switch off. You never actually recharge. You feel wired, buzzing, and on call most of the time.
10) Life is passing you by
While all this is going on, life is passing you by. Human connection – including laughing, talking, and enjoying time with people in person – seems to happen less and less. The things that matter to you get pushed to one side. Life is passing you by. Don’t let it.
– To book a session to talk about solutions to the common problem of digital distraction, email email@example.com
– Frances Booth’s book, The Distraction Trap (Pearson, 2013), is available in bookshops and online.