It seems like every five seconds, our phones send endless barrages of notifications our way. It’s a familiar feeling, wading through the mire of our home-screens or inboxes for important information. The world is speeding up at an exponential rate and our devices deliver that information to us twenty-four/seven, three-sixty-five with breakneck efficiency.
Being in the know is an important aspect of working efficiently and productively. Technology has always been a powerful tool to aid in communication and the dissemination of information. Now that many workplaces have moved online, keeping the notification bell on has become common practice and staying up to date has taken a paramount position at the proverbial conference table. So clearly, the more connected we are to our emails, news apps, and texts messages, the better, right?
Slow down, Cowboy.
On the surface more and faster might champion the flag of efficiency. However, if the information we receive is not carefully managed, it can have the opposite effect. Are our collective efforts toward connectivity and efficiency actually hindering our ability to work in a productive and healthy manner? Yes- and there are very tangible detriments that come with being too connected. Overstimulation is a dangerous trap that people can fall into, especially now that many of us ‘log-in’ to work as opposed to showing up. Despite this, overstimulation can be difficult to spot. People get too wrapped up in their work to notice, or they believe themselves to be caffeinated juggernauts of the keyboard (commendable but not sustainable). That’s why it is important that we separate the wheat from the chaff in regards to our digital modes of communication.
We’re Only Human: Here are the facts, we can only process so much information in a day before our quality of work takes a hit. We have limited attention spans, roughly twenty minutes. Moreover, an interesting article by Melanie Curtin theorized that out of an eight hour work day, people are really only productive for about two hours and fifty-three minutes. People have limits and they need rest. When we subject ourselves to an endless notification stream, we lose the ability to disconnect and recuperate. It might be seven at night but your phone just buzzed and it’s that file you had been waiting for all day. Now that file is in your head and your head is no longer on the pillow.
Physical Health: Overstimulation also plagues people with physical detriments. Studies show that overstimulation can cause anxiety, a significant drop in general energy, and depression. Physical and mental health are vital in making sure that a company’s culture is productive and positive. Subjecting yourself to an ocean of screens and notifications may seem productive, but it is actually inhibiting your ability to work efficiently while damaging your wellbeing in the process.
FOMO: Traditionally, FOMO means ‘Fear Of Missing Out’. The term is often applied to social situations. All of your friends are out at the bar and suddenly you’re scrolling through your phone, wondering where your invite was. While the office is a little different from a bar, the principle applies. Getting emails and texts all throughout the day, even when we shouldn’t be working, can create an anxious atmosphere. Did I do enough today? Why was this sent to me now? Maybe I should hop back on the laptop. This destroys the barriers between personal time and work time.
So what is the game plan? The key to protecting yourself from overstimulation lies in two areas. First, we have to kill the myth that more and faster equate efficiency or productivity. That isn’t always the case. Oftentimes, they have the opposite effect. Secondarily, it is important to set boundaries. When you’re done working, set your laptop aside. If you get a notification after work hours have ended, remember that it can wait. It is better to be mentality fit than to be technically swift. It’s all about moderation. Technology is an excellent tool for staying connected and informed but it shouldn’t be allowed too much power over our lives and schedules. They’re phones, not instructors.