Reading Onscreen and Understanding Everyday Digital Distraction

Thank you very much everyone for attending yesterday’s talk. As promised here is some helpful information that I wanted to share.

Of course distractions are very much a part of life and can be perfectly fine and enjoyable in the right circumstances — but here are some tips on how to cope with digital distractions when they might feel a little too intrusive for our liking.

1. When in doubt, print it out.

Some studies have shown that reading in print can help us focus and concentrate better; I always feel like I think better on paper than on a screen. From The Guardian: “Why reading and writing on paper can be better for your brain” 

2. Out of sight, out of mind. 

Do we really need to keep our devices always so nearby? There is some evidence that even the mere presence of our devices can remind us of potential distractions, even before they happen. From Harvard Medical School: ” Keeping your smartphone nearby may not be so smart.”

3. Try a digital break every now and then.  

Have you recently been on a vacation away from the internet and social media, and if so, how did it feel? There can be an intensely liberating feeling from just not being beholden to our digital distractions from time to time. From Alex Soojung-Kim Pang: “Rules for a Successful Digital Sabbath

4. Some apps to help you focus more: 

Freedom: One of the apps that I use all of the time when writing and working — works on your computer, phone, tablet all at the same time (helps to minimize cheating).


WasteNoTime:
A useful, free browser add-on that helps you limit time on websites of your choosing for however many minutes or hours per day/week you set it to.

RescueTime: Another helpful program that lets you take a real daily distraction audit. You can install it on your Internet browser or computer, and RescueTime will keep track of how much time you spend on a website, what percentage of your time on the computer is spent being “productive” or “unproductive” and other useful information (disclaimer: “productive” and “unproductive” can be subjective terms!).

Moment: This is a newer app that can tell you how many times you check your phone a day, how many minutes or hours you spend on what apps. Useful but also make sure that checking your number of distractions doesn’t in itself become a distraction.

 

5. Mindfulness could be a longer term solution for our digital distractions. 

For a longer term solution, I favor a little bit more mindfulness in our daily habits and thinking. Here is an interesting study from the University of California, Santa Barbara on how two weeks of mindfulness training might improve attention spans and memory. From The Atlantic: “Study – Meditation Improves Memory, Attention.”