In this age of multitasking, we are rarely unplugged from electronic devices for long during our waking hours. In fact, we often jump from one screen to another at a rapid pace—writing email and checking the news on our laptops, texting friends and playing games on our mobile phones, watching television or listening to music at the gym.
We may think that keeping our brains constantly busy increases our productivity, but it may have the opposite effect. Research shows habitual multitaskers have a more difficult time focusing on important information and blocking out distractions. This barrage of information may also take a toll on our creativity , fatiguing our brains and sacrificing the valuable downtime we need to process information and think of fresh ideas. At work, it is important to resist the temptation to jump from task to task without taking short breaks away from the computer and other technology. Employ strategies to encourage healthy habits in your office, and you will reap the benefits of a more focused, well-rested staff.
Set Limits (And Keep Them Yourself)
Having almost constant access to email can be helpful in some situations (when your plane gets delayed and you have to let colleagues know you won’t make it back for a meeting) and distracting in others (when you are enjoying dinner with your family and get an urgent email). Downtime is important, so create a culture that encourages it. Try leading with credibility within your own team by respecting non-work hours and avoiding sending work emails late at night or over the weekend. A behavioral assessment may help you identify what you can change.
John Battelle, founder and CEO of Federated Media Publishing, developed a strategy in his own organization called “Take 48” , where all employees agree not to send any work emails from Friday at 6 p.m. until Sunday at 6 p.m. People may still write emails, but they can’t send them over the weekend.
“It felt as if FM, as an institution, was taking time to breathe, to contemplate, to relax and feed itself,” Battelle said of the first “Take 48” weekend.
Take a Breather
How often do you take the time for short (10- to 15-minute) breaks throughout the work day? How often do you leave your desk to eat lunch somewhere else, whether it’s the employee lounge, a park bench or a nearby diner? These small breaks during the day are necessary to let your mind and your eyes rest, and they leave you feeling more energized and productive than if you work without stopping.
Make the time for short breathers throughout the day, and encourage your employees to do the same. Your employees will respect your example, so leading with credibility is important. Get up from your desk for a glass of water, a cup of coffee or a walk around the block, and you’ll come back rejuvenated.
Physical activity keeps blood moving to the body and the brain, which increases alertness and overall good health. Think of fun and creative ways to motivate your team to stay active during the day.
- Sponsor a “bike to work” campaign
- Buy everyone pedometers and host a friendly competition to see who takes the most steps in a month
- Extend lunch so employees have enough time to go to the gym during the day
- Buy a few exercise balls employees can use instead of office chairs
- Negotiate an employee discount at a nearby gym
What ideas do you have for avoiding digital overload in your organization? Employee development starts at the top.
Learn more about our Leading With Credibility course.