Tech is turning us into 'Homo Distractus'
Getting a grip on rising tech distractions improves productivity and is good for business says founder of Consciously Digital and author of Homo Distractus Anastasia Dedyukhina.
Consciously Digital is a London-based consultancy that helps people and organisations have a healthier relationship with technology.
Dedyukhina's book Homo Distractus discusses how to have a healthier relationship with technology and is crowdfunding until Friday 17th November.
Ex-digital marketer Dedyukhina ditched her smartphone after realising it was taking over her life. She now coaches individuals and companies on how to manage tech instead of letting it manage them, a large part of which is how to improve productivity.
“Productivity is directly related to how focused you can be,” she told BusinessCloud.
"A study looked at what made students productive and found that the longer they dedicated to a particular task the more productive they would be.
“It’s basically a big myth that we can multitask as humans - we can’t. Or we can but we don’t do it well.”
The reason for this is that quickly switching between tasks – which includes tabs or devices – has a cost says Dedyukhina.
“If you have more than two tasks open you can lose up to 40 per cent of your productive time because it takes your brain time to go back to what you were doing,” she said.
"Each day we're all receiving 175 newspapers'-worth of information via broadcast and 20 newspapers'-worth of information via telecommunications networks such as the internet.
“When you go online you’re constantly making micro-decisions. Should I look at this email or click on this link?
“It might seem like a small thing but when there are lots of them they accumulate, depleting brain power.
“If you read your emails in the morning and don’t complete all of them your brain still dedicates a bit of energy to keeping track of that.
“You don’t have all your energy resources focused on the most important thing they could do."
Dedyukhina’s rule is that she doesn’t reply to emails until she’s accomplished something big in the morning.
“I have one or two things that are really important to accomplish like recording a video or working on my book. Unless I have worked on them for a few hours I say no emails,” she said.
“This creates my own agenda instead of surrendering to other people’s. A big part of that is managing people’s expectations.
“Say that you answer emails three times a day or within two hours and as long as people know that then they don’t freak out. We just don’t have the etiquette yet.”
Despite the feeling that work will suffer if users unplug, research has found that it actually has a positive effect overall says Dedyukhina.
“It’s amazing that people tell themselves they can’t get rid of tech but an experiment by Harvard convinced several BCG strategy consultants to unplug once a week for several months,” she said.
“They were afraid they might lose clients but their performance was measured against those didn’t unplug and they found that not only did the unplugged group perform better but they also had better relationships within the team.
“Their clients didn’t object at all as long as they knew that they would be available the next day.
“We tell ourselves we can’t miss anything but we tend to overestimate our importance.”