Is technology making you less efficient?

“For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.”    Alice Kahn


Is technology making you less efficient? - smiling woman playing video game on smartphoneIf you feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of technological gadgets, apps and other digital “solutions” out there, you’re not alone. Technology sprawl and the rabbit hole of more and more information, available all the time, is making productivity—and healthy downtime—a real challenge for many of us.

Although we may be quicker at completing redundant tasks, more time is wasted managing all our different apps and technologies. And more of us live in a near constant state of distraction.

An epidemic of distracted workers

Maintaining focus on the job is increasingly difficult in the era of social media, chat apps, games, and the ability to search anything at any time. This applies whether related to the task at hand or not.

Recent research shows that on average office workers switch between tasks roughly every three minutes. Half of those “task switches” were not because the phone rang or someone stopped by with a question—they were self-interruptions.

When an interruption is related to the primary task, it isn’t a problem for the worker to maintain focus when the interruption ends. But when people switch to a new task it takes longer to remember where they were, refocus, and regain momentum.

Online multitasking

Another source of distraction that costs workers time and energy is task switching on their computers. A study has found that people who work at their computers switch between applications about 400 times per day.

If your team isn’t using the same platforms and apps, there is increased inefficiency as workers deal with incompatibility issues. Anyone moving between a number of decentralised apps during the work day will feel mental exhaustion. This will lead to increased lack of focus and even less productivity.

Tools and tips for increasing efficiency

The fact is, no matter how much we’d like to improve our productivity, multitasking is a myth; most humans can only perform one task well at a time.

If you must use a computer at work you can help minimise the temptation to check Facebook or random search. Give ShotClock, a monotasking app a try. Or try Freedom, an app that blocks digital distractions so you can focus on just what’s in front of you.

Another tip is to batch email rather than reading and responding to messages continually. Read and respond to email just once in the morning and again in the afternoon. Sending email twice a day will train people not to expect to hear from you instantly, creating more reasonable expectations. For our own personal and collective well-being, no one can or should be available to work around the clock.

Perhaps most important of all, be sure to unplug and rest your mind each day. And be good to yourself by taking a health break each year. A week or two of time off, away from work email and other stress-inducing distractions, will do more to increase your productivity than any app.