Working at Microsoft, I get to work with some of the smartest people – but even they are not immune to the effects of digital overload. I think most of us today experience this. It’s that forgetfulness, that you can’t remember that you had a conversation, you forget to do something, you feel kind of frazzled by everything going on, fatigued at the end of the day, and you have nothing left. Even though you’ve been working hard all day, you feel like you really got nothing done. You definitely feel like you can’t keep up with all of the stuff coming at you, especially not in an 8-hour day.
Why Are You So Overwhelmed?
So what’s going on here is that our brains have not evolved to deal with technology. Technology is just growing faster than our brains can evolve. By adding in all these mobile phones and computers into our daily lives, we’re being completely bombarded. Not that long ago, your brain had a totally different environment that it was in, even just 25 years ago in the workforce. You had a desk calendar and a telephone and a task list and that was about it.
In such a short period of time, we have evolved to this, where we’re constantly being dinged and pinged and have all of these incoming demands for our focus and attention. You are constantly being interrupted and every time you are, your brain has to evaluate whether or not it’s a danger that it has to deal with.
In biological terms, it really wasn’t that long ago that an unexpected noise was a wild animal that you had to protect yourself from. Today you have all these noises and interruptions from the technology you’re using “to make life easier.” Your brain is in fact very effective at adapting. For instance, a new mother is alert every time she hears a noise from her baby and it doesn’t take long for her brain to know what’s normal and what’s not; she adapts. She can tell from her subconscious mind whether or not there’s something going on there.
Technology and Task-Switching are the Real Culprits
The main problem is technology because it’s always changing. There’s a new app with a different tone and we even change the tones that our apps alert us with. Then we’re exposed to other people’s dings and rings. So it’s just this constant process that our brain has to go through. It is very quick to evaluate whether or not something is dangerous and we don’t even realize that it’s doing it. The problem is the sheer volume of how often it has to do that all day long.
The other piece of the puzzle is the task-switching. When your brain is dealing with something, it loads all of the information into the short-term memory in order to make decisions and evaluate what it has to do. When something else comes up, it dumps all of that information and loads all of the new information to then decide about that. Then it goes back and does the same thing again, and goes back to the first. That’s called task-switching. In the interruptions, this happens and you do it so fast, you don’t even recognize that you’re doing it. However, it’s very fatiguing to the brain.
The way that we’re working forces our brain to task-switch all day long. Take e-mail for example. When you’re in your e-mail program, each e-mail you go through typically has a totally different subject. So you’re constantly in that task-switching mode all day long, even when you’re not being interrupted by other people.
Again, this is very exhausting. It’s why at the end of the day, you’re fatigued and feel like you got nothing done because you lose the efficiencies. Depending on the complexity of the task you’re working on, you can lose anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes to get back to where you were when you were interrupted and switched to something else. That can add up over the day and you can really lose out on a lot of time and be very fatigued by it.
Three Reasons That It’s Hard to Change
There are lots of simple solutions to this problem that allow your brain to work more efficiently in this modern technological age. The problem is that our brain, in this stressed-out world that we live in, resists us making the changes and developing new habits. There are subconscious patterns that keep you from changing these habits. For instance, you’ll read a blog post that’ll tell you to implement the Pomodoro technique and work in short focused segments. Yet you’ll go to do that for a while, but then find yourself not able to do that once you’re not actively focused on implementing it. This is because your unconscious mind pulls your focus off and takes you back into those old habits.
There are 3 ways that your brain resists implementing new productivity strategies.
One is that you have beliefs that your unconscious mind is trying to be in alignment with. Let’s say you have a belief that if you don’t respond to an e-mail or Facebook message right away, you’re going to lose clients. If you have that belief, even though you want to implement a policy where you don’t allow yourself to constantly get distracted by those things, as soon as you’re not consciously focused on that, your brain will get you in there in order to prevent you from losing customers.
The second area has to do with emotions that your brain, your unconscious mind, is trying to prevent you from feeling again that get triggered by certain scenarios. Let’s say you were the baby of the family and you felt like your older siblings would go off and do fun stuff and you were always left out.
This could be an emotional button where your unconscious mind doesn’t want you to feel that pain of being left out again. So when Facebook comes along and you see posts or you hear about things that were on Facebook that you weren’t involved in, it can activate that.
Your brain doesn’t want you to feel that so even though if you make a conscious choice and say, “I’m only going to go on Facebook at 3:00 each day,” as soon as your conscious mind stops actively focusing on implementing that new strategy, your unconscious mind takes over and in order to avoid the discomfort, it has you on Facebook.
The third way your brain resists is through patterns and repetition. Your brain is programmed to do more of the same that’s it always done. So as soon as you’re not actively focused on changing a pattern, your brain goes in the default mode to what it has done in the past. Every time you think a thought, it’s easier to think that thought again just because of the way that the neurons fire.
This is why it’s so hard to implement strategies you read about. Your brain is actively working AGAINST you implementing strategies to defeat the digital overload you’re currently experiencing.
What You Can Do About Digital Overload
The good news is there is a technique that works on all 3 of these components, a proven way to break through your brain’s resistance to your efforts to implement productivity strategies. It’s called the Neuro-Focus Shift Method. If you live in digital overwhelm and you’ve read blog posts or read books on productivity and they haven’t worked in the past, you could be a great candidate for using this in order to rewire your brain so that you can easily implement effective productivity strategies.
Ready to Make a Change?
Left uncontrolled, the apps and software you use to run your business will end up stealing your time and robbing your focus … leaving you with a full task list and no time for the important stuff — like relationships, your health, and taking action on the things that will create even more success for you.
Take our quiz to see where your technology is stealing your time so you can get started with reclaiming it.
My biggest regret in life is not spending more time with my son when he was little because I was overworking. Today I help digital entrepreneurs break through their resistance to change and tame their tech habits so they can take back control of their day, focus on what really matters and have more time to spend with the ones who matter most. I do this through my free trainings, online group programs, and personalized coaching sessions. Learn More >>