5 ways to regain productivity in a hyperconnected world
Set your personal goals and conquer them
We live in a globalized, hyperconnected world. Everything is intertwined and accessible to everyone at any time. We have the world in our hands, just a click away. Sounds marvelous, right? Then why is it hard to be productive?
What is hyperconnectivity, and how does it affect our day-to-day?
Being hyper-connected means being on all the time. This can be counterproductive to productivity, and as a result, we need to control our time by getting rid of distractions.
According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, hyperconnectivity is “the sharp increase in the interconnectedness of people, organizations and objects that has resulted from three consecutive waves of technology innovation: the Internet, mobile technology and the Internet of Things (IoT),”
Let's examine a typical user's software bundle to show you how hyperconnected we really are.
Business professionals used an average of 88 apps in 2019, a 21% increase from 2016, when the average was 72. And more than 200 apps were developed in 2019 by OKTA programmers, representing a 10% increase since 2016.
I experience this every single day. Since I work with different clients, I have a Gmail and a shared Drive account for each one of them. I reach some of them via Slack, others use WhatsApp, and one even prefers Signal (who uses Signal?). When we meet it’s Russian roulette, I never know if it’s going to be a Zoom call, a Google Meet video chat, or if they are going to call me on my phone — sometimes the so-called ‘meeting’ is actually a bunch of voice notes. They also share passwords with me, and of course, it’s never on the same platform. I have used LastPass, 1Password, and Vault. Plus, I need to track my time so I can charge them properly, meaning Hubstaff, Minute7, and Traqq are always by my side.
But life is much more than work, and I need apps that help me on a personal level as well. My preferred IM app is WhatsApp. I use it every day. I also have my personal Gmail and Drive account. (If you’re keeping track, we are up to five Gmail accounts with the ones mentioned above.) I have an account on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, which I constantly check. I am subscribed to YouTube Premium, Netflix, Amazon Prime and will be adding Disney+ to this list. Uber, Spotify, my health insurance app, four different bank apps, Uber Eats, Flo, Call of Duty Mobile, and several other apps also make an appearance in my daily life.
I used to think that being connected was a choice, that I could turn off my phone and go on with my life, but now I rely on technology so much that when I leave my phone at home it feels like the end of the world. I don’t know any of my passwords, my entertainment is reduced to Social Media, and I now hate cooking. Being hyperconnected is no longer a choice, but an obligation.
Writing in the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan described this condition as living in a Global Village. In The Medium is the Message, he writes, “Ours is a brand new world of all-at-once-ness. Time has ceased, space has vanished… As soon as information is acquired it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information.”
Hyperconnectivity leaves us no room to be connected with ourselves or the things that matter. Having dinner with our significant other without checking our phones requires too much energy; making a healthy homemade meal every day is exhausting; and having real-life interactions feels unnecessary when we can be in touch with friends by commenting on their Instagram Story. The funny paradox is that the reason we are so busy in the first place is that we have made every single app feel as if it’s indispensable.
To live in McLuhan’s Global Village is to be in a constant state of excitement and novelty. We need an app for everything — we must be multi-device, multi-platform, multi-app. It is multi-exhausting!
I get it! We are always online, but why does this affect my productivity?
Hyperconnectivity is both our friend and our enemy.
A friend every time we ask Google something that would’ve taken us hours to discover for ourselves, or when we can reconnect with an old friend via Social Media.
An enemy when it makes our attention drift. When we open YouTube to see a three-minute tutorial and end up watching a video on how to talk to baby giraffes; when we get a desktop notification about an email asking for help on something completely different from what we’re doing; or even while we are driving, walking on the street or simply not paying attention to our surroundings.
We think all apps are here to solve a problem we have, and yes, many are. But we have so many of them that we end up getting buried in notifications.
If I can’t go offline forever, how do I fix it?
If we can control the Internet instead of letting it control us, the Internet doesn’t have to be our enemy.
When I acknowledged this in my own life, my productivity immediately started improving when I started doing five things that made a drastic difference in my productivity.
Before I begin, I want to ask you to define your productivity measures or goals.
Delivering a task on deadline is being responsible, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive. I highly recommend that you set personal productivity goals. This way, you can make a plan tailored to your needs.
In my case, I can hardly be productive for more than 3-4 hours a day. That doesn’t mean I am not doing anything for the rest of the day; it means I’m having meetings, mentoring others, or reviewing operational tasks with my direct reports.
If I make a plan to be productive for eight full hours, I will just be frustrated, because it’s not truly achievable.
That being said, here are the five things you can do to manage hyperconnectivity and regain your productive time:
No phone until noon
This has been a golden rule for me since I first tried it a few months ago. When we wake up, we feel an urge to grab our smartphone and see what we missed, as if the world ended while we were sleeping. I used to check Twitter first. Once I was updated, I moved to Instagram. Once I was entertained, I moved to my texts. And by the time I realized it, I’d spent more than 45 minutes in bed. I had to skip either my shower or breakfast to make it in time for my first meeting. Completely unnecessary!
Now I can see the difference. I even bought an alarm clock so I don’t have the temptation in my hands. I wake up, jump in the shower, meditate for a few minutes, grab breakfast, and will be sitting at my desk with a few minutes to prepare for my first meeting. I spend all the morning focusing on the important things. It works like a charm! Sometimes the day goes by so fast that I forget to check my phone until almost 3 pm.
Our brains are wired to respond when someone reaches out. That’s why it is so hard to ignore notifications. But you cannot imagine how much time the corporate chat takes away from you.
Obviously, this is something you need to discuss and agree on with your manager. Depending on the week, I might not be able to do this, but setting one Slack-free day is amazing because nothing is distracting you, and you can use the day to plan the week, define priorities and work on what’s important vs. what’s urgent.
Note: I use Slack, but this applies to all corporate chats. If you can’t do a whole day, try at least one morning a week.
Block time to check email
Blocking off time to check your email is nothing new, and almost all productivity blogs will advise this, so there’s not much else to write about it. While it’s hard to follow, especially if you have a customer service role, try to make it work for you and your schedule. But I’m telling you, this is a game-changer.
Treat yourself to 30 minutes of joy
Entertainment is an important part of our lives. Especially when working remotely, since we don’t have coworkers to chat or joke with during the day. We need to find “relaxation” moments in our homes.
Whatever it means to you — maybe it’s checking social media, playing a video game, or even reading your favorite book — take 30 minutes, apart from lunchtime, to do something you enjoy.
I never block time for this on my agenda because I don’t like it to feel imposing. I know myself well enough to know when I’ll need to take that break. Once I decide to relax, I set a timer to 30 minutes ahead, and I make sure to leave everything I am doing once it goes off.
After that, I drink a glass of water and get back to work. Usually, I am much more focused after that.
Go work somewhere else (and leave your phone behind)
When I could go to the office, I used to work from different spaces throughout the day. I worked from my desk, and then from the cafe, or maybe from a meeting hub. Now, I only do it from my desk, at my office, at home. And being in the same place all day drains productivity and creativity.
Going to work in a coffee shop or a deli is a great way to spur productivity, plus you can run away from hyperconnectivity by leaving your phone at home.
The hack with any of these tips is that you make them work for you rather than you being the one that works for them.
If ignoring your phone in the morning is impossible, or you need more than 30 minutes a day on SM because that’s what helps you reconnect with your motivation, do it. Modify these tips so they’re sustainable long-term.
Also, I am a huge believer that all that matters, in the end, is consistency. So if one day you're feeling off, tired, or sad, feel free to take it easy. You will be productive the next day. The key is: never miss a deadline and make the most out of the time you have (even if it means sleeping for 30 more minutes one day).
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle.
Leave me a comment if you think any of these tips will help you out. I'll be happy to read your opinions!
Edited by: Lauren Maslen.