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Staying productive in the digital age

If you’re like many people, you probably engage in tech-related activities that whittle away at your productivity. There are lots of tempting gadgets, devices and machines, which makes it easy to get distracted. To help you ward off tech temptations that lower productivity, here are 10 tech mistakes and some useful organizational tips.

Checking social media sites at the wrong time and places. You get a squirt of dopamine every time you check a social media site and have a fun exchange with a friend or colleague. However, that very thing makes you more likely to interrupt productive work to constantly check in. In short, it’s addictive. Protect yourself from the addictive side of social media and outline clear guidelines for using it. Limit yourself to five or 10 minutes tops. If you find you are having a difficult time doing this, install blocking software like Concentrate or Freedom that locks you out of social media while you are working on important tasks.

Checking email compulsively. Studies show that every time you interrupt a task by doing something like switching to email each time you hear the inbox alert, it takes you at least 20 minutes to get re-focused on the task you abandoned. The average worker spends 1 hour 47 minutes every day on email. But the constant switching means you’ll waste an additional 96 minutes as you try to get back on task.

Multitasking. Keeping multiple screens open at one time and jumping back and forth between tasks is counter-productive. According to studies, multitasking lowers your IQ by 10 points – more than if you smoked marijuana! We recommend creating a daily task list at the start of each day (or week) and scheduling important tasks.

Sitting in a non-ergonomic seat. Researchers are starting to find that people tend to hold their breath when they are hunched over and work behind a screen. Holding your breath in this way, coined “email apnea” by experts, actually sets off the fight-or-flight response in your brain. We recommend sitting on a chair that supports an ideal sitting posture and deep breathing.

Surfing the Web. The Web is a procrastinator’s paradise. When you are facing a difficult or painful task, browsing interesting blogs or doing armchair shopping can seem like a wonderful idea. Until you emerge three hours later with nothing to show for your efforts. Do yourself a favor and use blocking programs to keep the temptation to aimlessly surf at bay.

Failing to back up. Hard drive crashes and data losses are a matter of when, not if. Set up a push-button backup that happens automatically every 24 hours. In addition, use cloud-based storage like Dropbox to ensure you’re never without the files you need when you need them.

– Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore,