Confidence

Four technology hacks to free yourself from digital addiction

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The average person checks their email or instant messenger every six minutes. We spend an average of four hours per day on our mobile phones, with half of that time dedicated to the top five social media platforms. That equates to 45 days per year we are on social media (assuming you sleep for eight hours every night and the glow of Instagram isn’t keeping you awake). Digital distractions are rife.

Yet we also complain about how busy we are. When asked how we are going, the first word out of most people’s mouth is “busy”.

Kicking your digital addiction could provide the key to getting out of the busy-ness trap. Here are four ways to kick your addiction.

Use freedom to block out distractions

I used to believe that I could kick my own digital addiction with brute force and willpower. If I put my mind to staying away from distractions, then surely things would improve.

Unfortunately, they didn’t. Most digital distractions are designed to be as addictive as possible. They suck us in with random rewards, bings and dings, and hits of dopamine. The less we can rely on our own willpower to rid ourselves of these distractions, the better,

To preserve my own willpower, I use Freedom.to. Especially in the early days of kicking my addiction, Freedom was a godsend. Freedom locks you out of any website or software for a time period of your choosing. Freedom is great at helping create new working habits. Interestingly, I found that once I was able to form new habits and could focus on one thing at the one time, I no longer found I had the need to use Freedom.

Plant a (virtual) tree

Our mobile phone is obviously a major problem when it comes to digital addiction – our phone constantly lures us away from work without us even being aware of our behaviour.

Given the pull of the phone, one of my favourite app discoveries (ironically, a mobile app) last year was Forest. You set the timer for how long you want to focus on a task, and it grows a tree. But if you succumb to the temptation to do a “just check” of your phone, you kill the tree! And who wants to do that?

Delete an app

One of the reasons habits form is because the behaviour is easy to do. In order to break a habit, one method is to make the behaviour harder to do.

When it comes to digital addiction, if Facebook is front and centre on your home screen, it’s easy and therefore tempting to check it whenever you pick up your phone. However, if you delete the Facebook app from your phone, things suddenly become a lot harder.

If you are serious about kicking your digital addiction, delete the apps on your phone that are hijacking your attention the most. Keep these apps off for a week and see how your behaviour changes. If your life falls apart due to not having Facebook on your phone, by all means, put it back. But hopefully things will be just fine.

Go full screen

One of the features that almost every software application has in common is the ability to work in full screen mode (it’s the green button in the top left hand corner). However, most people never use this feature.

If you are trying to eliminate digital distractions, going full screen in the application you are working on will literally remove all other visual distractions and temptations from eyeshot.

As basic as this hack is, I personally find going Full Screen brilliant at tuning out all the other exciting stuff that might be happening on my computer when I am trying to stay on task.

So to kick your digital addiction, go full screen, lock yourself out of digital temptations, and go grow a tree.

About Dr Amantha Imber

Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of behavioural science consultancy Inventium and the host of How I Work, a podcast about the habits and rituals of the world’s most successful innovators. Sign up to be part of Amantha’s Year of Better, a quest to become more productive, creative, happier, and an all-round better person through a year's worth of experiments.

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