Staying on task is no easy feat, and for many of us, it’s getting harder each day as our phones come to contain increasingly large components of our lives: Music, navigation, alarm clocks, contacts, not to mention texts, emails and apps that are all vying for our attention with irresistible updates and notifications.
Having so much at our fingertips lures many of us into multitasking. It starts innocently enough: While reading a news article on our phone, suddenly a notification pops up reminding us of a friend’s birthday, which takes us to Facebook, which then reminds us that… And so on. Far from being able to juggle simultaneous tasks, however, it seems the human brain pays dearly for trying to do more than one thing at a time. Over and over again, research bears this out: Any time we get interrupted or stray from the task at hand, it can take us up to 20 minutes to regain focus.
We’re not just paying in terms of lost minutes, however. One experiment at the University of London found that we lose brain power as well. How much exactly? As many as 10 IQ points when we allow our work to be interrupted by seemingly innocent distractions like emails and text messages.
Need more proof? Another study involved college students concentrating on a single tasks. Those who were interrupted for just 2.8 seconds made twice as many errors as those who weren’t interrupted. When researchers expanded that interruption to 4.4 seconds, their error rates tripled.
So how can we learn to tame digital distractions and hopefully encourage our kids to do so as well? Here are three strategies to stay on task:
For young kids (4-8), this app guides them through as they help calm the friendly monster down so he can get through everyday tasks. Kids help him take deep breaths, think of plans and then do them. The app includes five scenarios, all of which repeat the breathe-think-do approach to self regulation, time management and focus.
For older kids, this is an amazing tool to help focus on accomplishing tasks without getting sidetracked. Its pared-down concept and design is distraction free itself. Simply list the tasks at hand, then allocate the time needed to accomplish each one. Designed for people with attention challenges, it’s nevertheless an amazing tool for anyone who struggles with procrastination.
Forcefield’s App Sleeper
For even greater focus, App Sleeper cuts digital distractions so that kids can sleep, study or spend time with friends and family without interruptions. Set a schedule so apps automatically go off whenever digital downtime is needed.