The Right App Can Fix Your Psychological Flaws
Digital tools can address your professional shortcomings, either by compensating for deficits or by actually retraining your brain
This piece is part of a week-long series on how to battle distraction, co-edited by Nir Eyal, the author of the new book, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.
We spend a lot of time worrying about how technology makes us less effective thinkers and managers, whether it’s because we’ve shortened our attention spans or turned into terse, 280-character communicators. But the right tools can also address your professional shortcomings, either by compensating for deficits or by actually retraining your brain. It’s just a matter of being honest about your limitations — and then choosing the right tools to address the problem. Here are some of the most common professional weaknesses, and the tech tools that can help you address them.
If you find yourself drifting away during crucial meetings or conversations, it’s time to retrain your attention span and build your ability to focus. Start by adjusting your day-to-day work environment: If you allow your workday to be continually interrupted by email notifications, incoming tweets, or phone calls, you’re chipping away at your ability to concentrate on a single task for an extended period of time. Experiment with setting your phone and computer to “do not disturb” for at least a couple of hours every day, and consider using a distraction blocker like Freedom (which lets you block specific apps and websites) to reinforce your self-control.
To really strengthen your attention span, however, it’s helpful to adopt some form of meditation or mindfulness practice. Research has shown that meditation improves our ability to focus, so even if it doesn’t appeal to you as a spiritual practice or form of self-care, consider embracing meditation as a way of improving your professional performance. Apps like Insight Timer and Headspace [disclosure: I have written for the Headspace blog] offer guided meditations that make it easy to get started. You can even find walking meditations or meditations designed…