Using Technology to Your Advantage: Be More Productive in 2022

Using Technology to Your Advantage

We all want to be more productive, however, most of us find we often just can’t. It’s easy to blame a lack of willpower but here’s a little secret: it’s really not your fault. Your brain has been altered by technology – and this includes all of us, younger and older alike. There are a series of digital age factors that have genuinely reduced most people’s ability to pay attention and concentrate on single tasks.

If you’re old enough to remember internet cafes you’ll remember the hassle of going to a specific location, then waiting for an open computer, before renting time on the internet by the hour. Now think about what’s available from a device that sits in the palm of your hand. It’s just too much for ‘willpower’ to overcome.

The result has been a dramatic fall in productivity. Our brains have been rewired by 24-7 connectedness. The switch to a “mobile device-based society” has had profound implications for humans, implications researchers are only just beginning to comprehend. As one example: a study of office workers found employees are, on average, only able to focus for three minutes. –And those are adults. A small study involving college students found that they are generally only able to focus on a single task for 65 seconds.

It can seem quite hopeless. Some feel that concentrating in the 2020s is a near-impossible task. But luckily there are solutions to be found – ironically – in the technology itself. Millions of people have now downloaded what’s known as a blocking app, which is able to sync across all your devices. They use this app blocker for exactly what the name implies, blocking apps. This might include blocking the entire internet, or specific sites for specific times when concentration is required.

When you’re sitting on the metro commuting to work, scrolling through a Facebook feed or checking your friends’ Instagram posts isn’t a problem and in fact, may promote bonding and make you happier. But when you get to the office or the classroom – that urge to scroll continues… and at this point it becomes detrimental. By using an app blocker, you can choose, for example, to set up 9:00 a.m. to noon as a time when nothing but say, a search engine for work is allowed.

Should you attempt to go to social media the app will give you a small nudge back on the straight and narrow by saying, “Sorry this site is blocked! Aren’t you supposed to be working?” For most of us, this type of reminder is enough to get you back to focusing on the task at hand.

It’s not like we don’t want to be productive, we are just easily distracted and the temptations are overwhelming for our hunter-gather brains. The beauty of a blocking app is choice. You pick the sites and you pick the times. Blocking the sites that you know are particularly difficult for you to avoid, means you first must have an honest discussion – with yourself – during which you admit – to yourself – what the main pitfalls for productivity are for you.

For some it’s social media, for others it’s political commentary blogs, and others get snared by sports sites. Find your personal enemies of productivity and then choose to block them during work hours. Blocking apps also come with timers that use that famous method of working in a burst of time, for example: work for 25 minutes, before taking a 5-minute break.

They also have scheduling features that can help you look over your entire workweek from a more bird’s-eye view. In the end, most of us are going to have to start by admitting we are powerless against our modern “perfect storm of cognitive degradation” as an MIT professor put it. That said, it’s probably not best to get extreme and smash all your devices with a sledgehammer.

Taking things away creates a vacuum and vacuums must be filled. Take away your devices and perhaps you would instead waste your time daydreaming or reading vapid magazines. But we have a choice: by using the technology available in a blocking app to set yourself up for success, you can spin technology into a tool for good. ‘Fighting fire with fire’ is the best metaphor for this strategy. Good luck with your blocking, and have a productive 2022!

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