People born after the year 2000 will likely never fully grasp just how slow the world used to be. ‘Back in the 1990s,’ for example, if you ordered something by phone, it sometimes took weeks to arrive! The thought of anything taking weeks these days is almost absurd in our “get it tomorrow” era. We live in a world of near-instant gratification, and while getting instant information from the internet can be greatly helpful, information overload is sapping many people’s ability to focus and concentrate. Meanwhile, the ease of internet shopping has become a huge problem for some – to the point that the word “addiction” is appropriate.
Let’s roll the problems of an inability to focus and an internet shopping addiction into one – as they are often connected. If you were trying to figure out how to stop a shopping addiction, one of the first things you’d need to change is your web habits. We can try to use willpower to wean ourselves off of our bad habits, but as we all know, bad habits are easier to make than to break. There are, luckily, research-backed ways that can assist us, and the first one involves limiting access to the internet across all devices.
1. Download a Blocking App
You may have heard of a blocking app such as Blocksite. This free app allows you to decide what websites you want to see and when you want to see them. It syncs across all your devices, which is helpful, as we all carry around a mini-computer in our pocket that is just as distracting as a laptop or a desktop.
By choosing to block the entire internet, for example, or specific sites that you know you have a problem with – such as shopping sites, sports sites, or social media – you are committing yourself to strive towards greater productivity and less wasted time. The science behind this strategy is sound.
Blocksite uses a somewhat similar principle, as it’s up to you to make all the choices, and making such choices are reinforcements to a commitment.
2. Take More Breaks
Taking more breaks to become more productive might sound a bit counterintuitive. We sometimes assume that sitting in front of our computer and knuckling down for 2 hours to write a report is the best way to get that task done. Brainpower, however, requires replenishing, and even over a single hour, taking a couple of short breaks can increase your productivity…and it’s also good for you!
We need to stand up. We need to walk around. It might not be the equivalent of hitting the gym, but breaks do wonders for your temperament, patience, inspiration levels, etc. –And those are the ingredients of productivity.
3. Listen to Only the Right Kind of Music
A third scientifically approved productivity enhancer is music – but wait! There’s a major caveat. Research shows that music with a human voice or music with instruments that resembles a human voice (such as a lead guitar or saxophone) is incredibly distracting for the majority of us.
Following these findings, companies and services have begun to sprout up offering specially designed background music that’s free of distracting elements. Give it a shot and see if it works for you. Others prefer total silence, and a great way to achieve that is by buying a pair of good noise-canceling headphones, which can be used to play music (obviously) but also to block out office noise and send a signal to others that you are working.
4. Learn How to Reward Yourself
There are reams of research that go back many decades showing the power of rewards. How does that apply here? Well, if you achieved good digital discipline on a work day and finished your to-do list, reward yourself!
A reward will mean different things to different people; mindless internet surfing, more time with friends and family – it doesn’t matter. You get to choose your reward. Rewards are the most powerful reinforcement tool available to animals, and of course, that applies to humans as well.
5. Drink Coffee – in moderation, of course.
Finally, in news that will be welcomed by some, studies suggest that caffeine in moderate doses does indeed help boost focus – especially when you are feeling tired. Going overboard with the coffee, of course, will be counterproductive and you’ll likely end up feeling jittery and uncomfortable rather than productive. And should you be someone who dislikes or cannot tolerate caffeine for some reason, black or green tea are other options, as well as other drinks that contain a chemical called L-theanine that’s been shown to reduce stress and improve mental focus.
The internet is a sticky web of temptation, and web addiction in all its forms – from being addicted to social media to being addicted to online shopping – is a very real condition that negatively affects millions of people’s lives. There is, however, hope and solutions to be found if you’re willing to make an earnest effort to apply the suggestions science has to offer.
Good luck with becoming more productive!