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How to prevent technology from becoming a distraction at work

Generally, people use technology in an attempt to aid their productivity. Gadgets and apps are supposed to make things easier, but is all this tech actually taking over our lives and making us less productive? How can we master technology to make sure that it is working for us and helping us to be productive?

Book time out of your calendar

One of the worst things about electronic calendars is that your colleagues can all see when you’re free and when you’re not. This means that they’re able to book meetings with you at times that are most convenient for them, and not necessarily the best times for you. Product Design Director at Facebook, Geoff Teehan, suggests booking out your own calendar with fake appointments where no meetings can be scheduled.

This has the bonus that if something is urgent people will opt to call or email you, instead of calling a meeting that could take up a lot more of your time.

A lot of guides on becoming less distracted will also tell you that it’s important to accept that distractions will come and to make space for them in your day. If you allow yourself a set time to do something other than your work then the idea is that while you’re working you’re less likely to be distracted.

Master true multitasking

Multi-tasking has gotten a bad reputation, according to The Distraction Addiction author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. He says that multitasking is often more like switch-tasking, where you’re doing a lot of different things that all have different goals. Whereas, he defines multitasking as switching between tasks that are all working towards the same goal.

For example, trying to watch a YouTube video, have a conversation and write an email to your colleague is switch-tasking as none of these things are working towards the same goal. Whereas, switching between reading a PDF, writing a Word document and checking a Google search when you’re researching is true multitasking because all of the tasks are towards the same outcome.

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Manage your email

Email is perhaps the technology with the most potential to become a distraction. Not only will it distract you when you’re at work, but also when emails are pinging on your phone while you’re not working it has the potential to disrupt your home and social lives too.

Pang recommends looking at what your current email habits are and working out how you can improve them. For example, he says you should take a few days and write down when you check your email, how many emails you have and how you feel about checking it. “Are there times of day when it feels most satisfying to check your mail? If there’s a pattern, your first step is clear. Try a few days where you check your mail only at those times and no others,” he says.

Pang also recommends only checking your email on one device – whether that’s your desktop, phone or tablet. He says that this helps to cut down on rushed responses and gives you more time to consider what you’re saying.

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