Undoubtedly, we’re rapidly moving toward a fully connected world at an unprecedented pace. From mobile work environments to smart homes, technology is reshaping the way we work and perform our day-to-day things. Most organizations have already realized the numerous benefits of hyper-connectivity as it leads to improved collaboration, agility, and productivity.
People go online to work, play games, buy their favorite products, and spend quality time. Everything is at the tip of your fingers. For instance, you can control your devices at home whether you are at the office or miles away from your city. The growing trend of remote work is making it possible for people to get rid of geographical boundaries.
You can stay home and work with a company that is thousands of miles away. The new digital era is simply accelerating innovation and disruption in every walk of life. Companies are creating new business opportunities, discovering new audiences, and creating new business models.
While most of us understand how hyper-connected is beneficial to businesses and daily life, it’s critical to address the negative impacts of an excessively connected environment. For example, it is becoming increasingly difficult for workers to stay focused.
We have so many things around us that can distract us. Take your smartphone as an example. Whether you’re an employee or run your own business, you have to maintain a work-life balance.
In this blog post, we’ll find out how to stay focused in a hyper-connected world. We’ll cover the following:
What is a hyper-connected world?
Living in a hyper-connected world - Key Stats
Common workplace distractions
How to Stay Focused
Staying focused during the pandemic
Let’s get started!
What is a hyper-connected world?
Simply put, being hyper connected means that everything is communicating from your dishwasher to the fuel sensor. It is an environment where information sharing is streamlined from people to people, people to machines, and machines to machines. When we say machines, it refers to every device that can be connected to the internet: home appliances, industrial equipment, vehicles, computers, medical devices, etc.
Here is what Wikipedia tells us about hyper-connectivity:
“Hyper-connectivity is a term invented by Canadian social scientists Anabel Quan-Haase and Barry Wellman, arising from their studies of person-to-person and person-to-machine communication in networked organizations and networked societies. The term refers to the use of multiple means of communication, such as email, instant messaging, telephone, face-to-face contact and Web 2.0 information services.”
Living in a hyper-connected world - Key Stats
We regard our smartphones, computers, and tablets as indispensable both personally and professionally. But they can seriously affect our ability to stay focused. Spending too much time on social media and email reduces engagement and productivity at work and home.
Here are some important stats to consider:
- An average manager spends 16 hours a week attending unnecessary emails and meetings.
- According to a global Gallup survey, only 13% of employees are engaged at work.
Not sure what the word “engaged” really means in this context? The term “engaged” is defined as being psychologically committed to work and contributing to the organization.
- Workfront surveyed 3,750 knowledge workers. It found out that, on average, workers are interrupted by email, instant messages, and other digital distractions nearly 14 times per day.
- According to a survey from Adobe, average US office workers spend more than 3 hours each day keeping up with emails.
- ResueTime analyzed data from 50,000 workers, showing that the average knowledge worker checks in with communication tools every six minutes. It also found out that 40 minutes was the longest amount of time an average worker could go without checking emails during work. Surprisingly, nearly half of the workers never get 30 straight minutes of focused work.
- Udemy conducted a survey of 1,000 workers in 2018. It found out that 36% of Millennials and Generation Z say they spend 2 hours or more checking their smartphones during a workday. 56% of them said they couldn’t make it through a day without checking their social media.
- A survey from Tata Communication shows us that people in Europe and Asia spend an average of more than 5 hours on the internet a day.
A productivity specialist, Geraldine Markel says, "when you are distracted or interrupted, you lose your focus, and you feel frustrated and irritated when you don't complete tasks with accuracy or completeness. Distracted workers have lower morale and loyalty and higher fatigue. People who work in a state of constant interruption report higher levels of stress."
Common workplace distractions
Whether you’re working in a busy office or from home, distractions are an inevitable part of our professional lives. A study found out that a typical office worker gets interrupted every 11 minutes.
It’s important to note down that our brains need 25 minutes to refocus on the original task.
Udemy conducted a survey and found out that workplace distractions negatively impact workers’ performance, potential, and productivity. When people get distracted often, they tend to work faster. Which ultimately affects work quality and leads to stress and anxiety.
Research from Michigan State University tells us that a short interruption like silencing the buzzing smartphone can have a negative impact on your ability to complete a task. It found out that an interruption of about three seconds doubles the error rate. Let alone the brief interruptions like checking out your Snapchat or text messages.
Before we dig deep into strategies to improve focus in a hyper-connected environment, let’s take a quick look at common distractions that can seriously kill your productivity or ability to efficiently perform the task at hand.
- Background noise
- People interruptions
- Social media
How can you deal with digital overload? What are the strategies to live in a hyper-connected world while staying focused and productive? Let’s get down to answering these questions.
How to Stay Focused
Digital overload is turning out to be the single biggest workplace problem. Everybody in your team and organization is likely to be bombarded with notifications and messages every day. And in case you’re prone to put off tasks until the last minute, diversions are only a click away.
To stay focused, all you have to do is learn how to control the digital overload rather than letting it control you. But what does it take to conquer digital distractions?
Alexandra Samuel, a technologist, and Larry Rosen, a psychologist came up with two different solutions.
Rosen is of the opinion that we should pull away from technology to regain focus. In other words, we should limit the time we spend on our devices by taking breaks and doing other things like meditation and exercise.
Samuel, however, thinks differently. She recommends that we should embrace technology and manage information overload.
These are two entirely different techniques to deal with hyper-connectivity. But it will help you start your journey toward a more focused and dedicated worker or household.
The following are some of the most effective strategies to consider:
Restrict what comes your way
Technology itself isn’t a problem, but the way we use it can be problematic.
First of all, you need to understand what’s important in your life and whatnot. If you can’t resist looking at your phone all the time, whether at the office or evenings at home, you’re not alone.
But it’s high time to set clear priorities and use technology correctly. With so much work, communication, and socializing taking place, turning off your devices is not a viable solution. Nonetheless, we can certainly minimize our digital overuse by restricting the flow of information. For example, you can control what emails should reach your inbox. After all, you don’t work for your inbox.
Some tools can help you make online communication more productive and focused. But first, you have to realize that you don’t have to check out all of your emails or things going on in your social media. In other words, filter out the noise.
People who successfully restrict what comes to their inbox are likely to be more effective at communicating with clients and colleagues. Email tools like Gmail and Outlook enable you to filter messages. Use them to ensure that only essential messages reach your mailbox.
There are emails that you don’t have to see immediately. Here is a quick tip: set a short-term, autoresponder explaining what you’re doing and when you will be back. For example, “I’m stepping away from my inbox to complete this task. I’ll be back in 30 minutes.”
Multitasking is not always a good idea
We like to multitask. It’s possible to do two or more things at the same time. For example, you can walk and listen to music simultaneously. But doing multiple things at the same time can hurt your performance and the quality of your work. For instance, looking at your Facebook during a meeting or conference call will impact your ability to focus on things that matter the most.
Earl Miller, an MIT Neuroscientist, states that multitasking causes mistakes, ruins productivity, and impedes creative thought. Therefore, it’s advisable not to multitask and focus on one thing at a time. That’s how you get things done quickly and correctly.
Strengthen your attention management skill
You must learn how to control your attention because it will determine the life you live. In today’s digital world where so many things are interconnected, distractions are everywhere. So, it’s critical to practice controlling distractions and being present in the moment.
Pro Tip: Be intentional instead of reactive.
Digital addiction is a common condition. Instead of using technology to streamline our lives, we get hooked by it. Digital devices steal our attention and make it hard for us to direct our attention to important things. Improving your attention management skill will help you stay away from distractions and have control over your priorities and time.
Control your environment
When it comes to working, you should set boundaries with others whether you’re working from home or in an open-office setting. It would be a good idea to put up a “do not disturb” sign when you need to focus. If your environment makes it hard for you to focus, try to work in a different part of the office or home. Letting your colleagues and family know that you have to do heads-down work can be helpful.
If you’re using productivity or automation tools to get your work done, use the “do not disturb” feature to avoid distractions. Most mainstream workplace tools offer this feature.
Turn off notifications
Let me say it again: technology is here to serve you and not the other way around. The good news is that it’s not hard to control your devices. For example, turn off notifications or put your devices on silent when you need to focus on important things.
Remember, notifications are designed to steal your attention. Take social media as an example. Social networking sites want us to stay online all the time. Non-stop stream of our favorite content can be hard to resist. So, keep your phone out of your sight.
People often think notifications are not that distracting because those notifications’ sounds last for only a few seconds. But when we get distracted, it becomes difficult to regain the focus and get back on track again.
Take phone-free breaks
Most workers turn to their smartphones during breaks. Studies tell us that employees who use phones on breaks feel less productive and restored after getting back to work. In 2019, a study was conducted to explore what makes workers happy. It found out that less happy employees are more likely to spend time on social media during lunch breaks.
Another study explored the effects of breaks on regaining vitality at work. According to this study, people who take quick breaks without their phones feel more energized and less emotionally exhausted than people who spend their breaks staring at screens.
Therefore, make sure you or your team adopt positive break habits such as moving around, meditating, or talking with colleagues.
It’s a brilliant idea to fight fire with fire. If hyper-connectivity is making your life a mess, use technology to resolve the issue. Apps like Feedly or Flipboard can help you find the most relevant information on social media and blogs. Automating some of your online work can make your life easier.
For instance, tools like Hootsuite can help you schedule posts or reach multiple platforms from one place. We’ve already talked about email filters.
Coexist with technology and still have inner peace
The hyper-connected world is here to stay. But we must practice how to disconnect on a frequent basis. Prioritize spending time with family and friends. Also, schedule some time alone every day to reflect and re-energize.
Instead of sending text messages and pictures, try to interact with real people. If you’re a business leader, engage your team and teach them how to co-exist with technology while losing your inner peace and focus.
It’s possible to find your inner peace in a noisy world full of digital distractions.
While new work management and productivity tools help us save time and expand our creativity, workers are becoming more and more dependent on technology.
Constant stimulation in the form of digital media is killing our creativity and productivity. Don’t let that happen to you or your team.
Convert hyper-connectivity into Hyper-productivity
Virtual meetings, interviews, and video conferencing are inseparable components of today’s work environment. However, the rise in the use of communication tools doesn’t necessarily boost employees’ productivity.
To convert hyper-connectivity into hyper-productivity, organizations have to come up with the right mix of technology, workspace design, work practices, and management styles. For example, a combination of talent management solutions, best HR practices, and face-to-face interactions can help HR leaders and managers achieve excellent results.
Let’s say you’re a recruiting manager. When you automate most of your repetitive or time-consuming tasks, it becomes easier for you to focus on the most important things like building relationships with top talent. A tool like Wiggli can help you stay focused on your main business objectives: finding the right talent in a cost and time-efficient way.
Here are some more tips for avoiding distractions in a hyper-connected world:
- Batch-check everything. Instead of spending all of your day checking notifications and emails, batch check your social media and emails.
- Rank tasks in terms of their importance and then focus on what’s crucial.
- Practicing good social media hygiene will help you avoid unwanted distractions. For instance, unfollow people or pages that no longer deliver valuable content.
- Putting yourself in a new environment can help you regain your focus and creativity flow.
- Give your full attention to one task and take breaks when feeling exhausted.
- Do not let the mind veer off in its own direction. Learn how to control thoughts and get your focus back to where you want to.
How to stay focused when working from home
Remote working seems like a dream until you face the challenge to stay focused due to distractions. Some distractions are easy to avoid when working in an office setting. But it can be a real challenge to draw a line between professional and personal life at home.
The most successful and effective remote workers set up clear boundaries and don’t violate them. The following are tips for staying focused when working from the comfort of your home:
- Establish working hours to avoid a chaotic schedule
- Explain to your family, friends, and others your work-from-home policy.
- Get organized by scheduling your work and creating to-do lists.
- Designate a specific space for a home office.
From an organizational perspective, leaders must help their workers create a more positive digital culture that encourages creativity and happiness. Whether you’re an individual worker, a team, or a business leader, learn to stay focused.
Make the right use of technology and excessive connectivity. Minimize distractions coming from outside sources. Control what’s coming your way. Gardening your attention in today’s digital world is more important than ever. As a business leader, give your team the tools they need to stay focused on things that really matter.