Dealing With The Productivity Brain Drain of Social Networks

Today, I’d like to focus on something a little different from our usual fare. It might not be the kind of thing you’re used to reading from me, but it’s nevertheless a topic that impacts everyone – including IT professionals. I’m talking, of course, about social media.

More specifically, the inverse relationship between social media and productivity.

As a whole, social networks are pretty incredible. Never in human history has a single innovation brought us so close together. Never before has it been possible for businesses and brands to make such close connections with their customers.

I’m not here to deny that social networks have done some serious good. I love Facebook just as much as the next guy, after all. What I am here to do is offer a bit of advice.

Simply put, every now and then you need to take some time off. Unplug and step away from the screen. Maybe go for a walk, read a book, or hang out with family and friends.

I won’t bore you with facts and figures. You already know that there’s a huge body of research about how social media addiction is similar to gambling. About how social networks, if overused, can result in narcissistic tendencies and exacerbate conditions like depression and anxiety.

This sort of thing is precisely why there’s a growing camp of US adults – millennials primarily – who are stepping away from social media altogether. They’re shuttering their smartphones, deleting their accounts, and embracing the real world with vigor.

For most of us, that’s a pipe dream. We need our smartphones to stay connected with colleagues and co-workers. We need social media for the same thing – to stay in touch with our friends and family.

That isn’t to say we can’t take a page from their books and cut down the time we spend checking notifications and responding to messages, mind you. We can, and we should. Even a single notification from Facebook can completely interrupt our flow, cutting our productivity for as much as thirty minutes after we receive it.

And we’ve all fallen into the trap of spending several hours “just quickly checking Facebook.”

So here’s what I propose. Switch off the notifications while you’re at work, and only check them at a few set intervals throughout the day. More importantly, dedicate a single day each week to being completely technology-free – turn off your smartphone and take a break from screens.

You might be surprised at the good that does. At how revitalized you feel after only the briefest of respites from our society’s torrential information overload. At how much more productive you are – and how much better at your job you feel – after paradoxically stepping away from everything for a while.

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