Some prefer the term ‘digital overload’ to digital distraction… but they are mostly the same thing. We’re talking about the 24/7, 365-day-a-year bombardment of messages, alerts, and possible things to watch, read, comment on, etc. All of these are available on desktops, tablets, laptops, smartphones, and even wearables. Any temptation to procrastinate easily turns into large chunks of wasted time as the diversions are so many and so easy to access.

Everything is just a click away. It’s possibly the most defining problem of modern working and studying. Digital distractions are ruining our lives and our productivity. Reports indicate many workers waste as much as 25% of their time dealing with various non-essential tasks at work and that these distractions could cost the US economy somewhere closing in on a trillion dollars annually.

We’re inclined to think that the 25% figure is on the low side. Think of how much time most people you know spend each day on everything from social media to keeping up with sports stats. But, most of us wouldn’t be able to work without digital connections… presenting a bit of a conundrum. We need our devices but they also lead us astray. 

Using social media
Using social media

Luckily, some smart folks have come up with a solution that is revolutionizing the lives of many. Blocking apps are a key component in a strategy to help you stay focused. The tech is free and easy to use. After downloading the app, have it sync across your devices and then set it up for your particular situation. If sports sites are your downfall, block them during work hours.

If social media is constantly intruding into your life when you wish you were getting stuff done, block it! Perhaps email is a problem if you need to be studying, for example. A blocking app could help you deal with this as well. Making the choices to block out chunks of time or block certain websites are important ways of taking back control.

It’s amazing how liberating it can be to simply not have the option for distraction. We all will have to figure out some way of controlling digital overload or digital distractions as the future is definitely not going to feature fewer of them. With ‘the internet of things (IoT) becoming an increasing reality, coupled with virtual reality and augmented reality on the horizon, it’s all about to get a lot worse. The time to train or retrain your brain is now.

Some people even report that after using a blocking app for some time, they find they’ve significantly reduced the habit of pulling their phone out of their pocket every time there’s a couple of minutes to wait for something… as they’ve slowly weaned off the habit.

Kicking this addiction can be quite meaningful for some. Not to get too ‘new age’ on you, but alongside productivity, blocking distractions is also how one can learn to “live in the moment,” a major key to overall mental health and happiness. Standing in – as a random example – a checkout line and not reaching for your phone but instead simply looking around at the people around you, while taking in your environment is initially an idea that strikes some as dumb or if nothing else, unnecessary.

But being present is very important for recapturing mental focus. Staying engaged in the here-and-now keeps your attention sharp and your mental resources rooted on details that matter at that specific moment. After getting past stage 1 – being comfortable with blocking digital distractions – consider moving on to stage 2 and practicing a little mindfulness.

No, we’re not recommending you sit around in the lotus position and chant ‘ohmmm’ for hours at a time. Instead, this involves some simple exercises such as deep breathing for 3 to 5 minutes – and noticing every time your mind begins to wander off from concentrating on the deep breathing exercise. Every time you find your mind wandering you simply push it back to focusing on breathing.

This is essentially the basics of meditation, and it’s a lot harder than it sounds. Most people find attempting mindfulness for more than a minute quite difficult in the beginning. But within a few weeks, you should start to notice a significant difference. Even if you don’t notice the changes that fast, be patient and be confident that they will come. It doesn’t happen overnight but when the results are in, they equal more success, more life satisfaction, and more of the simple joy of getting stuff done.

Make blocking distractions and conquering digital distractions a New Year’s resolution and you’ll be amazed at the changes that will follow.