How many times a day do you look at your phone? C’mon, be honest with me. A lot, right? Like really a lot. I’m as guilty as the next person. I find myself fidgety if my iphone isn’t with me. If I forget my phone at home – god help me – I feel naked and hopelessly disconnected. I experience FOMO – fear of missing out. What if one of my friends texts me? Will they still be my friend if I don’t reply within a few minutes? What if they are doing something cool and I don’t know about it? This is crazy talk, but deep down we all kind of believe it.

We have become addicted to our phones.

A recent article in The Atlantic profiled a former Google employee, Tristan Harris, who is determined to break our addiction. He is the co-founder of Time Well Spent, an advocacy group, created to persuade the tech world to help us disengage more easily from its devices.

The entire article is worth a read, and I encourage you to visit Time Well Spent’s website. Until then, Harris suggests you adopt a few habits that will help you take back control of your digital life.

1. Turn off all notifications.

More precisely, turn off notifications from non-humans. This is easy to do in the Settings. On the first Settings screen, tap Notifications. You can go app by app to set or remove notifications. You can also go to the app and set or remove notifications in the app settings.

2. Tools only on the first screen.

Icons are designed to catch our attention, begging us to open them. On your home screen, keep only apps that have a discrete function, like Maps, Uber, Camera, Notes, or Podcasts. Put the time-suckers – social media, email, web browser – into folders on your second screen. In folders, the icons become little-bitty images that require two taps to access.

3. Launch apps by search.

Even better, use the search bar and type in the app. Access the search on iphones by swiping down, on Android on the home screen. To further discourage tapping into the bottomless bowl of content, scramble the icons periodically to thwart muscle memory. Make everything you do intentional.

4. Don’t use your device as an alarm clock.

Put your charger and phone in another room. Use a traditional alarm clock. The blue screen inhibits sleep. If your phone is not next to your bed you won’t be tempted to check Facebook last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

Here are a few apps and extensions to help you limit your access to distractions:

StayFocused

An extension for Chrome that allows you to limit time spent on time-wasting websites

Freedom

Blocks websites and apps on iphone, ipad, Mac and Windows computers.

LeechBlock

An extension for Firefox that blocks up to six websites at different times and durations.

AdBlock Plus

An extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer that blocks banners, pop-ups, tracking, malware and more.

Keep Me Out

Limits the amount of time on any website.

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July 11, 2017

Combat Decision Fatigue

Sometimes choice can be exhausting. Constant decision-making overwhelms us. If you think about your day, it’s a series of decisions – from what to wear, what to eat, and what to buy, to critical decisions at work or at home. Making decisions is draining – it’s mental work. The more decisions you make, the harder they become. Expended mental resources causes increasingly poor decisions or no decisions.

This condition has a name: decision fatigue.

Willpower is a form of mental energy that can also be depleted, and the strength of your willpower fades as you make decisions. Decisions wear down willpower and kill productivity.

Some of the effects of decision fatigue are a propensity to experience things more intensely, to become more frustrated, to eat or drink impulsively, to say stupid things, to get into fights, and to take the safer, easier option even when it’s the wrong option.

Organizing is all about decisions. To get organized you must decide how to categorize, what to keep and what to discard, how to arrange and store what you keep, and even to decide where to start. Difficulty with making decisions is a major factor in clutter, both physical and mental.

Understanding and overcoming decision fatigue and how it affects you will help you become better organized and productive.

Here are strategies you can employ to combat decision fatigue.

1. Make fewer decisions by creating new habits and routines.

Have a routine from the moment you wake up that eliminates everyday decisions about meals and clothes. Plan decisions the night before, and pass off unneccessary decisions to others. Your home life and business life are not separate to your brain. If you are making a lot of decisions in your personal life, it will affect your ability to make decisions in business. If you minimize tiny decisions first thing in the morning, you will be able to make better decisions later in the day when it matters.

2. Do the most important thing first, early in the day when you are freshest.

Prioritize what you need to do. Create a to-do list with the three most important tasks, then schedule and commit to doing them. Keep a running list of tasks, written down so you don’t have to remember them. David Allen calls this a brain dump to clear your head for critical thinking.

3. Develop a process to make decisions.

Break them down into smaller pieces until you are making only binary decisions, two options. Limit your options and choose the simpler option. Sometimes done is better than perfect. Checklists are an effective way to streamline your decision process — the decisions about routine tasks are already made.

4. Be able to identify when you are fatigued and take breaks.

Even better, eat something. The brain needs a power supply. When you say your brain is tired, your brain IS tired and probably hungry. An energy bar, a piece of fruit, or something with sugar are good short term fuel sources for your hard-working brain. If you know you have a series of tough choices to make, eat something first.

(If you worry about over-eating, a recent study at the University of Alabama investigated how physical activity might quell the eating binges that follow intense mental activity.)

With these strategies, and by making a few changes to your routine, you can overcome that defeated feeling of paralysis and make better, quicker, and smarter decisions throughout the day.

 

 

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