How to manage your time in the digital age

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to manage your time in the digital ageTechnology is at the centre of many workplaces these days, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with everything going on around us. Is it even possible to balance our personal and professional lives, while staying on top of our inboxes and being attached to our smartphones?

In the digital age, it’s more important than ever to learn how to focus only on the things that matter. This way, you can make technology work for you – not against you. Here are six simple tips to help you limit the distractions of technology and get more done.

  1. Schedule time to respond to emails: Dealing with email is a constant struggle. A full inbox can be overwhelming and diverts our time away from more important work. One strategy is to allocate specific times of the day to check your email, and keep your inbox minimised on your screen outside of these times. Another strategy is to deal with any emails immediately that can you can respond to within three minutes. If it’s going to take longer, leave it for dedicated email time. You will find yourself quickly identifying whether an email is just a distraction or something that needs attention, and you’ll be amazed by the difference this approach can make. To get on top of your emails, sort them into sub-folders according to urgency. For example, create a ‘today’ folder for items that need to be dealt with that day, a ‘this week’ folder for less urgent emails and a ‘this month’ folder for emails that can wait longer.
  2. Turn off notifications: This is a very helpful way to stay productive at work and avoid distractions from technology. Having your phone, computer or smart phone notifying you every time you receive an email, message or social media update constantly interrupts your thoughts and it then takes time to re-focus. This can greatly affect your overall productivity across the day. 
  3. Put your phone away: One of the greatest threats to your productivity is your phone. Smartphones have revolutionised how we do many things – including time wasting! If you’re always glued to social media, try physically putting your phone away for short periods of time. Switching it to airplane or do not disturb mode or turning it off can also help, but sometimes just having your phone out of sight means it’s also out of mind. The world won’t end if you don’t have your phone with you, and you might actually get more done. 
  4. Close your email and messaging apps: It’s important to stay in close contact with your colleagues, especially in teams working across different locations, or when working on complex projects. However, sometimes it helps to close your email and instant messaging applications for a while, so you can get some uninterrupted time to focus on the task at hand. Just be sure your manager or colleagues are aware of your plan, and they know how to reach you if something urgent comes up.
  5. Know when to chat face-to-face: Discussing things with colleagues over email can involve a lot of waiting and is often counterproductive, especially for quick questions. Instead, don’t be afraid to catch up with the person face-to-face. You can often accomplish more during a short conversation than a lengthy email chain. Some workplaces are even making this a policy. 
  6. Take regular technology breaks: Taking regular breaks away from your computer and other devices can boost your concentration and productivity. Get up from your desk regularly and move around. A walk outside at lunchtime is a great way to re-energise and give your brain and eyes a break from the demands of technology. Once you feel more refreshed, you’re sure to be more productive.

While it can be challenging to stay focused and productive amid the constant distractions of technology, there are simple steps you can take. Despite how many of us feel, there are usually times when it’s okay not to be contactable, so take advantage of these windows and minimise your technology use. You’ll probably amazed at what you can achieve!

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