As too many tech devices compete for attention, I’m determined to deal with the distraction enemy in retirement.
Who would have thought that technology would create angst after we’ve left the office? Whether from text messages, emails, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or old-fashioned voice mail, on most days digital demands rob every one of precious time.
There’s no question that digital distraction is fun nor is the internet’s usefulness questioned. Many older people find online activities ease isolation and loneliness. And who, regardless of age, hasn’t watched funny cat videos, serious Ted talks, spent hours researching consumer information, or enjoyed the convenience of booking a vacation?
But, too often technology becomes a distraction or even an addiction. Most of us are guilty of checking something online as a form of procrastination. Few people have in boxes without hundreds, even thousands of messages, notifications, and alerts.
A couple of years ago I had an email problem and years of data got erased. I panicked but soon realized that I didn’t need the archived material that had been lost. Nonetheless, my inbox has again multiplied sufficiently that I despair of ever seeing the coveted empty inbox.
What is Digital Distraction?
Quite simply, digital distraction is scattered attention. This increases exponentially when our minds are cluttered with too much information.
Most digital messages and alerts expect an immediate response as a form of social reciprocity. Sometimes immediate action is required. A sense of vulnerability is created if the response/action gets delayed, or worse, if it’s impossible to respond.
I can’t imagine how much information I would manage if I were still in my career or how much anxiety I would feel if I didn’t respond in a timely fashion.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and FOBO (Fear of Being Offline) create anxiety and worry regardless of age or workforce status. Relationships suffer when the false urgency of a notification or a pointless email grabs attention. People interrupt a conversation with a spouse, a child, or a friend to read and/or respond.
Everyone who has a social media presence suffers some degree of digital distraction. We get pulled away from priorities and use precious time and energy attending to unimportant information. Focus on relationships or work that needs to be done is compromised by the need to check a screen on a smart phone or tablet to which we are constantly connected.
Handling Digital Distraction
A quick Google search found an excellent Harvard Business Review article “Conquering Digital Distraction” by Larry Rosen and Alexandra Samuel at https://hbr.org/2015/06/conquering-digital-distraction. This gives a comprehensive review of digital distraction as well as suggestions for conquering it.
An escape from digital distraction is unlikely so learning to manage technology is essential.
Some of my favourite techniques when I’m overwhelmed with digital devices include a technology withdrawal. When 24/7 connectivity robs me of precious thinking time, I take time off. I remind myself that I’m retired and don’t need constant connectivity. Stress from over-vigilance and from expectations of a quick response or a quick reaction, gets a break with time off.
I also set aside time for uninterrupted work. I remember when my mother needed time to read or write letters, she turned off her radio so she could concentrate without chatter or music. A simple timer to stop digital disruption when writing or researching a blog post give me uninterrupted time for thinking and writing.
I also set digital boundaries for how often and when to check my computer and smart phone for messages. Usually this is twice a day unless I’m expecting something important. I try to keep my phone in my pocket or my purse when I visit with friends as I value face time with them over screen time.
I’ve experimented with email filters and automation tools to block emails and to re-direct emails to folders. These tools have given only limited success.Perhaps I’ve not taken enough time to learn how to use such tools effectively. If I were in the workforce, I would likely need automated responses to survive, but, for me, using Unsubscribe or Delete remain the primary method of managing unwanted messages.
For a pleasant retirement, learning how to make life choices and not tech choices or app choices is necessary. We can’t isolate ourselves from the advantages of social media. We can, however, learn how to manage how we attend to the demands of digital distraction and, thus, restrain its influence on daily life.
I’m wondering how readers are affected by information overload. What techniques have you found to be effective for managing digital distraction and keeping the distraction enemy under control?
Thanks for reading this post. You may also like a previous post on FOMO that you can read by clicking this link Are you suffering from FOMO?
I look forward to your comments!