The Impact of Digital Distractions on Coaches
One of the reasons I started my coaching business was to gain more freedom and not sit in the office in front of the computer all day. However, after a couple of years of working for myself, I realized that I was glued to the screen even more than before!
Along with some useful work, most of my time was disappearing and I felt more tired now compared to when I worked in the corporate world. Having measured where my time was going using a time tracking software, I discovered that most of it was spent on one thing—digital distractions.
Why Distractions are Bad for You
Have you ever sat down in front of your computer fully determined to do something useful, but as the day passes, you realize you didn’t accomplish anything important? Your to-do list has grown bigger, although you have been doing something all day. One black hole sucking your time is digital interruption, whether you are interrupting yourself or a program does it for you. On average, we self-interrupt and switch tasks every three minutes and 15 seconds.
Say, you were working on say a new blog post for your website and saw an incoming email. It takes our brain on average 64 seconds to go back to what we were doing before we got distracted, even if we did not read the incoming email. Multiply 64 seconds by the number of incoming emails you see daily, and you have one to three hours of your productive time wasted just because of one distraction. And how many more are there?
Sound familiar? Digital distractions are often unnoticeable but can be detrimental both for your productivity and ability to follow through with your goals. Researchers say that we lose up to 40% of our productive time when switching between tasks, prompted by digital distractions. And it’s not always our fault.
Modern websites and apps are often designed to keep you online longer. This is how companies monetize their products—selling your attention or data to advertisers. Think an infinite Facebook scroll or automatic loading next video on YouTube. So even though you were going to spend just five minutes of checking an article, you may find yourself randomly clicking on yet another cat video two hours later and have no idea how you got there.
How to Cope with Digital Distractions
For coaches, attention is one of our main assets. But when we have to deal with too much information, we may feel overwhelmed and even are at risk of burnout. If you feel the need to be on top of everything all the time, reply to every client request immediately, read all social media replies and comments, you are probably biting more than you can chew.
The solution I found for myself is to recreate boundaries with a four-step Consciously Digital methodology: time, space, relationship and self-management principles.
Time management in the digital world means to decide:
- a) When you are going to be available and use your devices and when not
- b) How much time you want to spend on a particular digital activity
I tend not to look at my devices after working hours and do several unplugged days in a row when I am very tired and need a fresh perspective. My devices don’t have notifications, and I check my messages in a batch every hour or so.
Similarly, I try to limit how much time I spend on a particular internet activity. The internet is endless, and social media marketing work can be infinite. However, if you know that you only have three hours a week to work on your social media presence, you will be forced to be more focused.
Space management is about deciding where you use your device and where you don’t. There are sacred spaces in my house, like the bedroom or dining table, where no phone or computer are allowed. This gives me a chance to recharge my batteries.
Relationship management is about managing people’s expectations of when they contact me and when they can expect a reply. I don’t normally reply to emails or messages over the weekend, and close people have my phone number for truly urgent communication. If you feel a need to constantly reply to messages to get new clients, consider outsourcing this activity.
Finally, self-management is about knowing your own limitations and triggers. For example, when I work alone for a while or feel tired, I am more tempted by digital distractions. So, at first signs of being distracted I switch to doing something physical, like cooking or going for a walk, without forcing myself to continue working.
Ultimately, we cannot help others unless we have something to give. For that, we need to manage our devices, which can be amazing tools, and not let them manage us.