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Tech interrupts us every 3 minutes, how to stay productive

A new study reveals workers are distracted every three minutes by technology, how do we stay productive? We share tips as we reveal the wrong answer to this question.

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Workers are distracted by technology

On Happening Now on Fox News today, Dr. Gloria Mark at the Department of Informatics at the University of California at Irvine was interviewed about her new research that reveals the average American worker is interrupted every three minutes, and it may take as long as 23 minutes to get back on track. Dr. Mark said that with the proliferation of information today, and the unprecedented access people have to more people and information, the question is not how distracted we are, but how could we not be distracted?

We’ve written about Dr. Mark’s work previously, as she is well known for her research on digital distraction. Earlier this year, Dr. Mark took people off of email, and discovered that email obsession is not only unproductive, but actually has health implications, as the heart rate of a frequent email checker is in constant high alert mode, meaning it does not rest or increase like a normal heart should. Workers taken off of email were more productive and focused, with the implication being taken now that the same applies to social media.

Dr. Mark told Fox News that the distracting nature of social media is “an open question,” adding that “the thing we [do] know is that stress goes up as we multitask.” She noted that too much stress impacts productivity, and that while workers need some stress to keep them going at work, they shouldn’t be so stressed that their health is impacted.

How do we maintain sanity? Here’s the wrong answer:

Dr. Keith Ablow is a long time Fox News contributor and writes for Good Housekeeping and while he has an impressive background, his approach to Dr. Mark’s study proves he is out of touch with technology and modernity. Let’s break down his entire segment, point by point:

“Sooner or later, we’ll take holidays from technology,” taking designated hours, days, or weeks away from technology, as “this level of stress is only going to increase.”

He’s right, the level of stress is going to continue increasing as our culture adjusts, just as the introduction of cars stressed out drivers until user behavior and the technology reduced the stress levels. He is wrong, however in that “sooner or later” holidays will be taken, as many people years ago adopted a technology-free zone for weekends, or after dark, or refusing to take a smartphone on vacation or to relatives’ homes. Old news. Next?

Dr. Ablow continued, “The fictionalization of our lives wherein everybody thinks he or she is a reality tv show, posting (partially fictitious, by the way) Facebook profiles, tweeting about everything you do, like you’re a rockstar, which you’re not, and thinking that you’re so important that you better check the email every second while at work rather than getting any work done.”

Okay, breathe. First, if this is his impression of social networking and email use (aka technology), he obviously has a teenager he is basing his entire theory on. I have a teen as well, and yes, they are glued to their phone, and while I don’t believe my child is so self righteous they must post everything about herself, Dr. Ablow or his teen obviously does. Most businesses use social media now as what I would consider a traditional staple in their marketing arsenal, and the NASDAQ posting stock quotes, the Pope tweeting prayers, doctors live tweeting surgeries, and artists sharing their works on Facebook is far from “reality tv” behavior.

In response to the statement from the anchor, “but we don’t want to miss antything,” Dr. Ablow responded, “You know what? Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein didn’t have email or tweeters, or whatever, Twitter, and they did just fine for us.”

Seriously? You’re opining based on innovators of yesteryear? Imagine if they had email and a web community wherein they could all communicate their ideas and expand them, and if they had been able to do so, would they have mastered more innovations in a shorter period of time and actually been able to do more before they died? We’ll never know, but you get the point, it’s a bunk theory that because they didn’t have modern technology, they did just fine – they could have achieved more. Maybe.

In closing, my favorite portion of Dr. Ablow’s statement is that technology “is distracting, conveys people away from themselves. It’s a drug and it’s no different than any other drug of abuse. I promise you, people say ‘this is bad for me, I don’t want to do this anymore,’ and they’ll tweet that out. It’s a formula for disaster.”

I recently heard of people that did so many internets that they began convulsing and died in an alley, and someone was busted up the street and charged for posession of internets with the intent to distribute, and they’re going to be locked away for life. I met a girl recently that had done so many tweeters, her cheeks were sunken and her teeth were falling out and her husband had recently been incarcerated for overdosing on Facebooks and almost beating her to death. Please. It’s addictive and many studies not cited have proven as much, but it is not the exact same as every drug of abuse.

So what is the answer? How do we maintain our sanity?

Dr. Ablow is often right on, he is extremely well educated and well informed, just not on this particular topic – he must have been the only person available. Although I didn’t scream at the television (maybe I did), many ways to maintain sanity and avoid distraction came to mind, here are my quick tips:

  1. If you read one tip out of all of these, make it this one: turn off push notifications. Duh. Go to the settings in every social network and do not let it text you or ping you every time someone updates or tags you. Only look at notifications when you have the time to go to that social network or email service.
  2. Time block. Easy. Make a policy with yourself that you won’t look at Facebook after 5, or you won’t use Twitter until after lunch, you’ll do X for two hours, Y for two hours, Z for 10 minutes, etc. We’ve written about curing corporate A.D.D. with this atop the list of methods.
  3. Use a service like Notify Me Not to help you walk through getting rid of all of your junk email and keeping focused on real people in email, and you can mass unsubscribe from all junk email right now. If you’re on Gmail, ToutApp analyzes your gmail habits to help you pinpoint your timesucks.
  4. Use technology to battle technology and boost productivity. Any.do, Asanda, Due, and Do are all popular task management tools to keep you focused.
  5. Email too distracting? Install the free Inbox Pause tool which takes away the email interruptions while at work. Email getting redundant? Check out Yesware.
  6. Get extreme, and set up Strict Pomodoro on your browser, which blocks any site you designate from being used for certain time blocks so you can stay focused on your actual work, then you gain access to them for a few minutes. Genius.

There are endless ways to keep your day focused, we’ve been covering them for years, and using the excuse that the internet is a drug, so you just shouldn’t do it is completely unfeasible in today’s world. Stay focused, use technology to battle technology, and if you want to dig deeper into productivity tips, read years worth of tips, tools, and tricks to help you navigate the waters.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. phone services

    December 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Technology particularly social media still has many good uses today. They should just be properly used and in a moderate way.

  2. Jessica DelBalzo

    December 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Lani, thanks for the humor AND the useful tips (ie: not the ones Dr. Ablow gave out).  <a href=”https://www.kminstitute.org”>Knowledge management</a> is a huge roadblock for businesses and individuals who are overcome by technological interruptions in the workplace, but these modern tools absolutely have their place in the office.  Can you imagine how much business would be lost if we completely avoided social media or email?!

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Tech News

Airbnb addresses issues in accessibility by adding new filters and photos

(TECHNOLOGY) Finding accessibility-friendly Airbnbs lodging has not been the easiest process, but the company just unveiled new features to help.

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In a commendable step forward for the platform, Airbnb has updated its filtering features and added additional location photo screening to make its platform more user-friendly for those with disabilities. This is the first big overhaul since 2019. Studies have demonstrated that guests with disabilities are more likely to face discrimination on the platform and the platform is making moves to address this issue. In a tweet on November 9th, the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, posted: “We’re reviewing every accessibility feature on Airbnb for accuracy. To date, our agents have double-checked photos of features in more than 25,000 homes.” The tweet features an 18-second video showcasing the accessibility features interface, which looks promising at a first glance.

In a curious decision, the number of accessibility filters has been lowered from 21 to 13, in what is described as an attempt to streamline searches.  While there is room for skepticism on that notion, better screening and search optimization for the remaining accessibility features is a welcome improvement. Perhaps we’ll see some of the nixed search filters, such as handheld showerheads, make a return in future updates.

The standards and burden of evidence for listing accessibility options have become more stringent.  Each feature now must be clearly documented with photo or video evidence, which are reviewed by designated trained staff. With standards now clearly defined for hosts to use to determine accessibility compliance of their spaces, the process should be smoother for all parties involved.  Examples of clarified guidelines include defining a ‘wide entrance to bedroom’ to be at least a 32-inch doorway, with photos of the measurement to confirm, as well as similar additional documentation being required for accessible parking spaces.  Where previously hosts just had to show a space clearly marked as accessible, images or video now need to also show how far from the primary entrance the space is, as well as prove that the space is clearly labeled with official signage or has a private driveway a minimum of 11 feet wide.

As a disabled person myself, and with a partner who has two defective knees– I can say there are a few filters I will miss. However, the more reliable accuracy of the labels for postings is a large step forward. I look forward to not getting any more third-story apartments showing up in searches for wheelchair-accessible properties. Planning my next vacation will likely be much less frustrating, if only we could agree on somewhere to go.

Update (December 07, 2021 at 12:58pmCST): Liz DeBold Fusco, Communications Lead for North America at Airbnb tells us, “To better serve our guests, and with input from our community and partners, we have updated the filters to make it easier for guests to find homes which suit their needs. One of those updates is simplifying to focus on essential and most used filters.”

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Business Finance

Can you afford missing a paycheck? Finance tips for freelancers

(FINANCE) Freelancers who are not always promised a regular paycheck could benefit from staying on top of their finances. Here’s our tips!

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money for paycheck

Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay. We all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here are a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have to, and remember this is an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start-up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving) or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. If the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on your toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more) of your paycheck.

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax nor investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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Tech News

iOS 15 beta has blur nude photos opt-in, but its not without fault

(TECH NEWS) To protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos.

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Woman looking at Apple iPhone representing new iOS 15 beta that will blur nude photos.

In a move to protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos received in the Messages app. Amid privacy concerns, the feature has yet to be released.

The option to blur nude photos is opt-in, reports The Verge, and does not prevent users from choosing to view the photos in question even after being implemented.

This iteration of the feature is distinct from the original one insofar as it will no longer alert a parent or guardian when nude photos are encountered. While this may seem like a controversial change, several experts pointed out that exposing nude content on a child’s device in some households could result in abuse or, as Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Kendra Albert suggests, the outing of “queer or transgender children to their parents.”

With the most recent version of this feature enabled, children who receive inappropriate photos via the Messages app would be able to do two things: choose to avoid (or see) the content, and choose to send a report to a trusted adult if they see fit to do so.

Blurring photos is just one of several aspects of Apple’s Communication Safety suite, a feature that aims to prevent child sex abuse by making it easier for children to avoid and report predatory content.

 

Child on electronic device- iOS 15 beta that will allow blur nude photos should protect children.

Another feature that Apple has tested – but not released – is their Child Sex Abuse Imagery Detection (CSAM-detection), which scans and reports iCloud content that shows child pornography or abuse to Apple moderators for further review. As one can imagine, the feature drew mixed criticism, the majority of which came from privacy advocates.

While the vast majority of humanity can (hopefully) agree that fighting against child exploitation is a noble cause, these groups argue that scanning and reporting individuals’ personal photos via an algorithm opens the door to government interference and increased surveillance. Switching the algorithm’s baseline to scan for things like anti-government content, for example, would be easy, these groups posit, making the feature extremely dangerous in principle.

There is no current release date set for any of these aforementioned features, though iPhone users can reasonably expect them to drop at some point during iOS 15’s development.

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