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When was the last time you tried something new?

When was the last time you did something new?

Think back. How did it go? What happened?

I did something new the other week – going along to an outdoor exercise class in a place I’d never been to before.

The first time I went, I took a map. Before I set off, I studied the map. I double-checked I had everything I needed, and I set off in plenty of time. As I arrived, I noticed I felt a bit nervous. But I walked across the park to a couple of people who were already there, said hi, and started chatting. The class was fun.

The second time I went, I took the map with me again (yes, I still use old-school paper maps sometimes). But I didn’t need to look at it – I remembered where I was going.

The third time I went, I was almost there when I realised that I didn’t have the map with me. It wasn’t so new any more!

I walked over to the group of people who now recognised me, feeling confident, knowing I would enjoy the class.

Every time you do something new, it takes a leap, and it takes courage. You’re stepping out of your comfort zone. You’re inviting in the unknown. You’re asking yourself to stretch.

What if it goes wrong? What if you don’t like it? What if you’re out of your depth?

But the answer isn’t to avoid doing anything new in case it goes wrong. It’s the reverse: to step out there and try that new thing.

Confidence is built by taking action. When you try something new, and achieve it, you start to feel more confident.

This stands you in good stead for the next time you try something new – you can remember back to that experience, and know that you can handle new things.  

Going along to the exercise class reminded me of just how quickly you move from something being new, to it being familiar. It doesn’t take long.

So don’t sit and wait for confidence to somehow “arrive” before you attempt that thing you are slightly daunted by. It doesn’t happen that way round. Confidence comes from taking action.  

Remember, even the most confident people will have a moment of hesitation before they do something new for the first time. That’s just being human!

The difference is, they don’t let that put them off.

looking at map

Questions to think about

  • What would you love to try?
  • What might be fun to do?
  • What have you been putting off giving a go?

Try something new and see how you feel. Expect to feel nervous. Expect a bit of hesitation. Then do the same thing again. How do you feel now?


Frances Booth is a confidence coach and the author of personal development books including The Distraction Trap. Find out about ways to work with her at www.franbooth.com

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Is email making you stressed?

Next time you open your inbox, notice what happens to your breathing. Do you hold your breath when you open your inbox? Or does your breathing speed up?

Email makes many of us feel anxious, overwhelmed and stressed.

The never-ending stream of demands coming at us can seem just too much to deal with. The information overload can be overwhelming.

Close your inbox for a moment and step back. Ask yourself just how healthy your relationship with email is… and if it is causing you stress or strain, what can you do to improve this?

The huge reaction to the recent news that 250,000 French workers have been told – following a legally-binding labor agreement – to disconnect outside of working hours, shows that many of us are perhaps missing a vital element when it comes to email: boundaries.

For these French workers, it’s simple. The rule says no email outside of working hours, so no email outside of working hours it is…

Is this what many of us are craving? For someone to draw us a line?

In the absence of someone to tell us to switch off, it’s time to put our own boundaries in place.

Try these tips:

1. Avoid keeping your email open all the time. Being constantly distracted by updates and pinging demands from other people means that you’ll never turn your full attention to the work you’re doing. It means you’ll be constantly ‘on alert,’ will be less productive and will make more mistakes. Even half an hour switched off at a time is beneficial. Try it.

2. Decide how many times a day you want to check email. Twice? Four times? Only once? This can depend on the day. Many of us blame the boss or the people we work with for the reason we check email so much. But in fact, much of the pressure we feel to check we actually put on ourselves. Notice this, and talk to your boss about email methods and productivity if needs be.

3. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. If you do, you’ll immediately be spending your time and energy on other people’s demands, rather than on your own priority tasks. Do something else first for an hour (or two hours). See what a difference this makes to your productivity.

4. Decide what time to switch off email at the end of the day. Stick to this. Log out and breathe.

If all else fails, however, there is always one more option… shut down, pack up and move to France.

This blogpost also appears on The Huffington Post website

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5 tips on how to do a digital detox

Gorging on information streams, hungry for just one more click, our mental and physical systems are becoming overwhelmed, overworked, and overloaded.

Yet many of us don’t realise this until we either take a step back, or until it is too late and we burn out.

Here’s a chance to opt for the step back option. This Friday to Saturday (7th-8th March) is National Day of Unplugging (originating in the US, with people in many other countries also taking part).

This is a chance to switch off, shut down your digital devices, and recharge your own batteries for once.

Why should you try a digital detox? The best evidence for this comes when you experience it for yourself. Try it, and you’ll see …

Ask someone who’s done a detox what they experienced, and they’ll be likely to mention some of the following benefits: feeling less stressed, feeling calmer, a sense of perspective, a sense of being unhurried, quality time with those you care about, a chance to think, lack of demands, better sleep, a sense of freedom, time slowing down. Not a bad trade off for pressing the off button.

However, pressing the off button can be surprisingly difficult. Why is this?

Detox implies we’re dealing with something toxic. And we are.

Toxic is the anxiety caused by being constantly on call. Toxic is the waste of precious time, as our attention is pulled away from the things that really matter to us. Toxic is the pressure cooker of our own making, as we chase perpetually after digital demands.

It is precisely because it is now so difficult for us to disconnect that we need to make sure we can do it.

On an individual level, constantly connectivity is having an impact on our health. We often don’t equate being constantly wired to feeling constantly exhausted. We often don’t realise that being ‘always on’ is the reason for our stress or burnout.

On a wider business and economic level, ‘always on’ culture is contributing to lack of workplace productivity, poor decision-making, lack of time management, shortened concentration spans and employee sickness and absence.

While a digital detox can’t solve all of these issues overnight, it’s a very good place to start.

The National Day of Unplugging from 7th-8th March is a 24-hour detox from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. During this time, you switch off from all digital devices – including laptop, mobile, smartphone, tablet, and computer.

If you need solidarity in deciding to take part, there are hundreds of inspiring photos from people around the world sharing the reasons they switch off.

Keen to try it? Intrigued? Ready to give it a go?

If you’ve never done a digital detox before, what can you expect and how should you go about it?

Try these tips:

1) You’ll probably feel withdrawal symptoms in the very early stages after switching off. These might include a strong urge to check your phone/email/social media, a feeling of boredom, and a sense of unease. Stay with it and these feelings should pass within a couple of hours.

2) Before you switch off, a common concern is missing out. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is one of the strongest pulls that keeps us checking. However, notice whether – when you eventually switch back on – you did actually miss anything. In reality, things like boredom are usually harder to cope with during a detox. Instead of thinking FOMO, think JOMO – Joy of Missing Out. Enjoy playing your own thought soundtrack instead of having your thoughts led by social media. Enjoy setting your own agenda instead of answering to other people’s demands.

3) Get prepared before you press the off button. Print out maps, look up any travel or visiting information you need, and if you’re arranging to meet someone say you’ll be there on time but not available by phone. Yes, old school. But a different way of doing things can sometimes be refreshing.

4) Don’t expect too much of yourself if this is the first time you’ve tried a digital detox. Aim for 24 hours. But if you get to 12 hours and break, don’t worry or be harsh on yourself. Just notice how those however many hours felt for you, and take it as an experiment. Try again another time. Enjoy however long you do spend switched off. Just press the off button and see …

5) Plan something for your digital detox time. It’s a good idea to swap screen time for an interesting activity. This could be quality time with friends or family, a trip to an interesting place, or hours reading a good book. Dream, cook a great meal, or pick up an interest you’ve neglected recently.

Good Luck and enjoy your digital detox

This blogpost also appears on The Huffington Post website

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Suffering from information overload? Time to look up from that screen …

Do you feel like you are constantly on call these days? As though your day is dictated by the beep and ‘pling’ of messages and updates, pulling you this way and that?

Picture the scene: you’re in the middle of a conversation with a friend, and their phone beeps. They turn to their smartphone, saying “hmm, what was that,” as they pretend to listen to you. How does that make you feel?

Here’s another snapshot: It’s the end of the day, and you stand up from your desk feeling frazzled and wired. Yet when you tot up what you’ve done you realise it amounts to little more than fielding email demands, your attention pulled this way and that. You’ve been busy, and you’re stressed, but somehow you didn’t get round to the one thing you were meant to do today.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone …

People often ask why I wrote The Distraction Trap. It was because I started to notice that everywhere I went, people were staring down at screens. You’ve probably noticed them too, on trains and buses, or walking down the street veering in front of you. Perhaps they’re even in your own front room …

I started to question whether this constant connectedness was really healthy, or productive. Had we all really opted in to being on call? Was everything really so urgent?

Researching these issues, I found that the reasons for our behaviour around digital media are complex.

We check, and check, and check again. It’s a habit, verging in some cases on addiction. We check our smartphones every few minutes. We check our social media all the time because of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). We check our email because we feel like we should (though the expectation we put on ourselves is often far heavier than the expectation of others).

And while we adopt these new behaviours, other things go by the wayside; things like concentration and communicating in person.

In this blog on digital life, I’ll be exploring some of these issues. I’ll look at the huge pressures constant connectivity puts on us, the cost of distraction to productivity and wellbeing, and how to – whisper it – press the off button now and again and do a digital detox.

Can you be happy and disconnected? How much is too much when it comes to screen time for young people? And is it possible to spend a bit less of your life checking email?

These of the some of the questions I’ll be answering.

This is not about saying technology is bad. It’s about exploring how we choose to use technology, and understanding the pull digital devices have on us. It’s about being in control of how we fit digital devices in to our lives, rather than being ruled by them.

Long, long ago, in a past far away, there was a time Before Google (BG). Those of us old enough to remember it can vouch for the fact that there was also a time before mobiles – never mind smartphones. Somehow, the world turned.

Then, things changed. And fast.

In the 10 years between 1997 and 2007, huge swathes of our digital landscape as we know it were formed. We started emailing en masse, went mobile, and met Facebook and Twitter for the first time …

It’s strange to think that these changes were so relatively recent. We’ve embraced platform after platform, without even stopping to look up.

However, as anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by information overload knows, sometimes we go a little too far.

Now, it’s time to take a step back, and look around. This is a chance to regain a sense of digital balance, and to decide what a healthy, productive digital life means for you.

Try this today: Notice how often you check your smartphone

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Distracted walking: look up from your smartphone

I knew it was time to write this when I started shouting out loud at strangers as I crossed the road: “Watch out! Look up from your phone!”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed it too. Distracted walking seems to have suddenly got worse.

What’s distracted walking? It’s walking along a street or a road while staring down at your smartphone (scrolling, typing or looking at a map, for example).

One indicator of the rise in distracted walking is that smartphone street theft has soared – after all, it’s easy to snatch a phone out of the hands of someone not paying attention.

A police campaign has been launched in London to tackle rising phone theft, and in some parts of the city there are huge flashing signs telling people to be careful and “Love your phone”.

The acknowledgement of this issue is an important first step, but much more now  needs to be done – not just tackling smartphone theft but warning people about distracted walking, cycling and driving too.

Recently, the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, called for a ban on cyclists wearing headphones amid concerns over cycling safety. This is the kind of message we need to hear more.

Distracted driving and distracted walking are issues that are being discussed much more in the USA than the UK.

Here are some facts:

– Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent at 55mph of driving the length of an entire football field, blind (VTTI)
– Driving while using a mobile phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37% (Carnegie Mellon)
– If you text while driving, you’re eight times more likely to be involved in accident than a non-distracted driver. You’re four times more likely to be involved in an accident while talking on a mobile phone (Professor David Strayer)

So before you answer a message while driving, and before you step out into traffic oblivious while looking down at your phone; stop. Pay attention. 

Look up. Look left. Look right. Don’t look down at your smartphone.

Rather than just shouting at people in the street (which I’ll keep doing) I thought I’d ask you to shout about this too.

© Frances Booth

Frances Booth is author of The Distraction Trap and an expert in digital distraction.

If you want to share observations or are doing work in this area, please contact us at connect@thedistractiontrap.com

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How to do a digital detox

Frazzled by constant demands or exhausted by information overload? A digital detox could be just what you need …

 

Detox is a word we often associate with New Year. During the January hangover from the December before, we cut out all that is bad for us, and latch on to the latest detox trends.

But while the idea of detox is familiar to many of us in terms of health, it can also be useful in a slightly different guise – as a digital detox.

Just like a health detox, the aim of a digital detox is to improve your overall wellbeing.

And what better time to try this than the ‘second new year’ of September? It could make all the difference to your stress levels in the season ahead.

So how do you go about it?

A digital detox means you switch off your smartphone, laptop, tablet, and any other digital devices for a certain length of time.

While the idea of this may fill you with dread, the best evidence of the benefits of a digital detox come from trying it yourself.

Once you do, the chances are you’ll feel calmer, less stressed, and able to think clearly at last. No beeping, no pinging, and no incessant demands – for however long you choose.

This gives you chance to focus on what you want to do, be that properly paying attention as you spend time with people you care about, or pursuing your dreams and goals.

So if you’re interested in doing a digital detox, how long should you switch off for?

How long does a digital detox need to be?

To get the maximum benefit from a digital detox, you should switch off for 72 hours.

Don’t panic. We wouldn’t suggest you start with this – a full 72-hour detox takes some building up to and planning.

There are other, gradual steps you can take first.

Press the off button on your smartphone. How does it feel? See if you can keep everything switched off for 15 minutes. Next time, aim for half an hour, then an hour.

Many people will experience withdrawal symptoms when they first switch off. These symptoms vary from person to person, but may include feeling disconnected, bored, or worrying that you are missing out.

These feelings will gradually pass.

Once you’re ready to aim for a more lengthy digital detox, why not aim to switch off for a full 24 hours? This is long enough to notice benefits. Repeating a 24-hour detox every so often is a great way to recharge.

A good time for a digital detox is the weekend. Could you, for example, switch off on a Friday evening until a Saturday evening? Or press the off button for the whole of Sunday? Decide what works for you.

Another ideal time to do a digital detox (and to try an even longer spell switched off) is while on holiday. One key to a successful detox is making sure you have other activities to fill your time, and a holiday is a great opportunity for this.

If you’re ready to do a digital detox, then why not give it a try …

If you want more advice or support to help you achieve a digital detox, get in touch with us to book a one-to-one digital detox session.

– Frances Booth is author of The Distraction Trap and an expert in digital detox. She works with companies and individuals on productivity, digital distraction and digital health.

© Frances Booth

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10 signs digital distraction is harming your business

Is digital distraction harming your business? This common office ailment saps productivity, increases stress, and redefines the very essence of ‘work’. Here’s how to spot if it’s happening in your office.

1) Default always on

When you walk round the office, most people have email open on their computer screen. They allow near constant interruptions, and instead of completing tasks in a focused and productive way, divert their attention every few minutes to respond to whatever demands come in.

2) Reply to all

The culture in your office is to cc people in to emails. People who don’t need to know anything about a certain issue spend time reading about it, and get distracted from what they were doing. Instead of walking across and talking to someone nearby, people tend to send them an email.

3) On call workers

You send an email out of hours – for example on a Saturday – not intending for the recipient to reply until Monday. They reply almost instantly. Workers are ‘on call’, rather than using the weekend to restore their energy. If you want your employees to be energised, full of ideas, and ready to go again come Monday morning, tell them to switch off at the weekend.

4) Dragging their heels

Productivity in your office has gone down. You don’t feel like you are getting the best out of people. Workers seem exhausted, stressed, and always busy, yet the right things aren’t getting done.

5) Sick of it

Sickness, stress, and poor performance are a problem. The names for this come in various forms, but ‘burnout’ is something you’re worried about. People keep mentioning information overload and feel like they can’t keep up.

6) On the agenda

In meetings, smartphones sit on the meeting table. People think nothing of sending messages or reading their emails while someone else is talking. Key points do not register and people don’t listen properly. After a meeting, people rush back to their desks to reply to yet more emails.

7) Zero inspiration

No-one is bringing you any good ideas. Distracted, bitty thinking takes over from deep thinking and reflection in a climate where distraction is the norm. If you’re distracted every 10 minutes, no wonder there’s no time to develop ideas. Ideas need time to form. Encourage your employees to switch off, as, chances are, they’ll have a bright idea when they’re walking, being creative, or focused on something else.

8) Headline goes here

Mistakes are being made. People send an attachment forgetting to attach the attachment, or reply all instead of just reply, or send an email to the wrong person. They blame their bad memory for not carrying out tasks they were asked to do. You’ve noticed errors have started to creep in to written documents and simple tasks. Quality is suffering. And yet, everything is taking far longer …

9) The endless task

People spend far too long completing a task. Endless time is spent searching for things – through email inboxes, or on the Internet, as people get distracted from what they were doing and even forget to do what they originally intended. Multitasking is a typical way of working, and people often have multiple tabs and multiple documents open on their screen.

10) Clocking off

No one leaves the office on time. Workers use either end of the day (early morning and the evening) to get on with the core work they should have done during the day. They don’’t get this work done during the day because they are distracted. Job satisfaction is low, stress is high, and people don’t have a good work-life balance.

Sound familiar? If you recognise your office here, get in touch to discuss how we can help. We’ll visit your office and give you methods you can use straight away to make your office a more productive place.  

Find out more here

Email us or fill in our contact form to start working on a solution.

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The multitasking myth

Do you Tweet while watching TV? Or online shop while glancing up at a programme?

If so, you’re not alone.

Ofcom statistics released in the last few days provide evidence for something most of us can feel is happening to us – we just can’t seem to do one thing at once.

Owning multiple devices, the temptation is high to get on with something else at the same time as watching TV. So we email, surf, Tweet, IM, text or post an update on social media, while at the same time watching a TV show.

Looking at media multitasking, Ofcom has identified two trends. The first is media meshing – where the thing you are doing relates to the TV show you are watching, for example, Tweeting about a TV show.

The second – more common – trend is media stacking – where the media activity you are doing is unrelated to the TV show, for example, browsing the Internet while watching TV.

Some 25% of adults regularly (at least weekly) media mesh, and around half of adults (49%) regularly media stack.

But how damaging is this behaviour to us?

It’s one thing when the multitasking we are doing relates simply to watching TV. We perhaps miss out on letting our brains ‘switch off’, and lose out on time to relax. We maybe fail to absorb or remember the show we were watching. Or we don’t hear what another person in the room is saying to us about the TV show.

But beyond the living room, there are far more serious consequences.

As most of us know, this urge to multitask now extends to most aspects of our lives. With devices with us all the time, we are letting ourselves be constantly distracted.

So we email and browse the Internet while working – finding our work suffers or isn’t getting done. We text, surf and post updates while spending time with friends and family, and damage our human connections. We multitask while studying and don’t remember what we are meant to be learning.

For business, productivity, learning, health, and safety there are huge far-reaching consequences of our current digital behaviour.

When we multitask, productivity drops by around 40%. Memory and quality also suffer, and we end up feeling drained and stressed.

These are some of the things I look at in my book, The Distraction Trap, where I give advice on how to focus amid the pull of digital distractions.

We may feel like we are going fast while multitasking – zooming here, clicking there – but in fact we’re slowing ourselves down and losing the power of focus.

Other interesting findings in the Ofcom Communications Market Report 2013 include the fact that 51% of adults in the UK now own a smartphone and one in four households now has a tablet computer.

With digital use becoming so widespread, it’s time to stop and think about the consequences of inviting these devices in to every corner of our lives.

After all, there’s much to be said for plain old-fashioned TV watching, and just doing one thing at once.

© Frances Booth

The Distraction Trap: How to focus in a digital world (Pearson 2013) is available widely in bookshops and online. ISBN 978-0-273-78585-9

– For any media requests or requests for syndication please email connect@thedistractiontrap.com  

 

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10 signs that you’re digitally distracted

We often don’t even realise that we’re digitally distracted, or notice how much our behaviour has changed. But by being aware of this, and making simple changes, we can make a huge difference to our productivity, health, and relationships.

 

These are 10 signs you could be suffering from digital distraction.

1) You have a vice-like grip on your phone

You carry your phone with you at all times – often actually in your hand. As soon as it beeps, rings, or buzzes, you respond to it.

2) Your phone is like a piece of cutlery

At the dinner table, it’s knife, fork and phone set out at the table. One portion of your awareness rests at all times on your phone, despite the other people at the table. You think nothing of checking messages or browsing the internet in front of others.

3) Q and A: Ask Google

If someone asks you a question, or if a question comes to mind, your first response is to ask Google. You don’t think for yourself to see if you know the answer or to work out where to find the answer. You are impatient for an instant answer.

4) Of course we can multi-task

Doing at least two things at once – such as leaving your email inbox open while you’re working on a document, or sending texts while you’re talking with a friend – is a way of life for you. 100% attention on just one thing? Unheard of …

5) Blame the bad memory

Recently, your memory seems to have been getting worse. Things slip your mind. You forget to reply to messages, and even forget the contents of messages you’ve read. “I told you that,” people say, exasperated. But you have absolutely no recollection of it.

6) Document not attached

You send an email, about an attachment, and just as you hit send, you realise you forgot to attach the attachment. Variations on this theme include sending an email to the wrong person or hitting reply all instead of reply.

7) You never get anything done

These days, it seems, there’s never time to finish a task. It can take you hours or even days to complete something relatively simple. You find you end up working late at night, early in the morning, or at the weekend “when there are no interruptions” just to get the basics done. You know you are being unproductive.

8) Thinking time is non-existent

A thought pops in to your head. It’s the beginning of a good idea. But then – BAM! – it gets interrupted as your phone buzzes or pings. The half-thought is banished – never to be returned to – as you scurry to answer the digital demand.

9) What’s a holiday?

You take your emails and updates with you to bed, to breakfast, right through Saturday and Sunday and even on annual leave. You never actually switch off. You never actually recharge. You feel wired, buzzing, and on call most of the time.

10) Life is passing you by

While all this is going on, life is passing you by. Human connection – including laughing, talking, and enjoying time with people in person – seems to happen less and less. The things that matter to you get pushed to one side. Life is passing you by. Don’t let it.

– To book a session to talk about solutions to the common problem of digital distraction, email connect@thedistractiontrap.com

– Frances Booth’s book, The Distraction Trap (Pearson, 2013), is available in bookshops and online.

 

 

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10 ways to tackle digital overload

Smartphone getting all the attention in your house?  Teenagers texting not talking? Here are 10 tips to help you and your children deal with digital overload.

 

1. Start small

Relatively recently we were learning how to switch our phones on for the first time (remember your first mobile?). But now, we’ve forgotten where the off button is.

With our phones next to us all the time, we allow near constant interruptions. It might ping! It might buzz!

We let our smartphones wake us up in the morning. We take them to the corner shop. We read them last thing at night before we go to bed.

We feel as though we are drowning in information overload, but still we don’t press the off button.

Here’s a challenge. Switch your phone off, just for five minutes, while you’re reading the rest of this article. Yes, you might miss something. Yes, you’ve got important things happening in your life. Just try it.

2. Other people’s demands can wait

What happens when you open your inbox? In it, are a list of demands, niggles, and calls for your time and attention.

If you check your email first thing each day and start scurrying around doing what other people ask, the clock can spin round to lunchtime with no time spent on the things important to you.

Flip things the other way round – and do the tasks that matter to you first – and your productivity will soar.

Try it tomorrow: spend an hour doing what you want to do first, before opening your email or social media accounts.

3. Manage expectations

We may blame the boss for the fact that we are constantly checking email. “They expect me to be there.” Or we blame the children for the fact we constantly check our phone: “What if they need me?”

But often, the heaviest expectation is the one we place on ourselves. We expect ourselves to keep up with communication via text, Twitter and Facebook, as well as on email, phone call and in person. We log in every day because we feel we ‘should’.

Managing other people’s expectations is, in fact, not that hard. Stop checking email constantly and people (even the boss) will quickly get used to a less speedy reply.

If they want an explanation, say you’re spending the time working. Explain that you’re doing, not pretending to do.

Put an out-of-office reply on your email that explains that you check it, for example, twice a day. Set a predictable time that you will be available via your mobile for your children – during lunch and their school breaks, for example. If there is a real emergency, people will find a way to contact you.

4. Set a goal

If you weren’t so overwhelmed by digital overload, what would you love to do? What would be fun to try? What would you like to spend more time on?

Having an incentive helps, so that each time you ‘reach’ for a digital distraction, you can stop yourself and spend time on what you want instead.

Think about what you love doing. Think about times when you feel in ‘the zone’.

Think about what you want to look back on at the end of the year having done.

Use your time for that, and send fewer emails. Post fewer status updates. Live a little more.

5. Account for the distraction factor

“I’ll just check the Internet for five minutes…” you think. Then whoosh. An hour has gone. An hour!

While the task you logged on to do perhaps took you exactly the length of time you expected – five minutes – the rest of the time was taken by ‘the distraction factor’.

Where do these distractions come from? That link you clicked on that looked interesting. A quick search for reviews of the restaurant you were about to book. The emails you answered while forgetting to send your own.

Watch the clock and watch out for distractions. Learn to assess how long a task takes with distractions factored in.

And tips for your children…

6. Scream louder

Could that screaming toddler and that sulky, non-committal teenager want exactly the same thing? Often, what they are both calling for is attention.

Imagine if you were a toddler trying to get attention, but your parent was always on their mobile. What would your toddler-style response be? Most likely, scream louder.

Imagine if you were a teenager sat next to your parent – wanting to discuss something – and your parent was always checking their emails on their BlackBerry. What would your teenage-style response be? Most likely, be uncommunicative.

Children are being forced to up the ante in the battle for their parents’ attention.

Think about your child’s response. Could they in fact just want your attention?

Make sure that your mobile or smartphone is out of sight (and preferably switched off) at points when you set aside time to give your – 100% – attention to them.

7. Set a good example

Getting your child or partner to look up from their screen and have a proper conversation may seem practically impossible.

But before you blame your children for being glued to their screens, check on the example you are setting.

Children watch their parents and copy their behaviour.

A classic example of digital devices damaging relationships is the phone on the restaurant table. This is quality time, interrupted. What you are saying here is ‘there is someone more important than you’.

Your toddler grabs for your smartphone because they know it’s important – they see that you always dive to answer it. Your two-year-old scrolls the iPad transfixed because they’ve watched you do the same.

By the time your child is a teenager, they’ve learnt many digital patterns from you. Be aware of the example you are setting.

8. Talk to your child about missing out

For older children especially, the fear of missing out is what keeps them checking and checking and checking again, particularly when it comes to social media.

Fear of missing out (termed FOMO by MTV who investigated the behaviour) means they worry they will miss the latest gossip, and they worry they will feel out of the loop.

Yet they’re often exhausted by the need to constantly check.

Encourage them to stop and assess the information stream they are actually taking in. How much of this is what they would consider ‘spam’? Can they tailor their feeds?

Another huge pressure young people may feel around social media is that of creating and maintaining an online persona. Discuss this with them and encourage them to develop an ‘offline’ sense of self.

9. Try a family digital detox

Suggesting you switch off altogether may cause uproar in your home on first mention. But once you try it – even just for one meal-time – you’ll start to feel the benefit to your relationships.

A tech cleanse, or digital detox, is a great way to connect with each other, rather than be connected only to digital devices. It’s also a great way to recharge.

Start small, and build up to longer spells switched off. Think of fun activities to replace digital activities – such as trips out or cooking together.

A digital detox could mean switching off on a Friday night for 24 hours. Or switching off on holiday.

If this is too much for your child at first, try boundary-setting. Limiting the amount of media use (with any rule at all) means they will cut down on their media consumption significantly.

And altogether…

10. Now breathe

When you make conscious choices about digital usage, there’s a feeling of relief

You feel human, rather than frazzled. There is enough time. You know where you’re spending your attention.

Your productivity will soar, your stress levels will drop, and you’ll find you have little tolerance for distractions.

This is a great state to aim for.

 

– A longer version of this article by Frances Booth was published by Mumsnet

– For further advice on dealing with digital overload, contact Frances to discuss a one-to-one session