Keeping Sharp Between The Ears In A World Full Of Online Distractions: A Guide

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It’s not hard to see that while modern technological revolutions have brought with them wonders (how many of us wash our laundry by hand anymore?) there have also been some side effects that most of us aren’t quite as aware of as we should be.

The most pressing is that of our attention. The “attention economy,” as it’s so put, causes programmers, UX designers and app investors to develop software programs that grab our attention as much as humanly possible. It’s good for Facebook or TikTok if you spend hours and hours on the platform at once, it means that you engage with content more, you watch more advertisements, and you may even buy something.

For this reason, it’s important not to discount the very pressing need to disconnect from time to time. Moreover, to counter what the kids now call “brain rot,” it can be nice to keep sharp between the ears – that is focused, attentive and capable – by utilizing various other hobbies. In this post, we aim to help you achieve that outcome.

Without further ado, please consider:

Playing Logic Games Like Chess Or Word Puzzles

The best way to avoid feeling somewhat unfocused after constant scrolling is to engage in games that demand your focus. Activities that actually do challenge your brain can be a fantastic way to counteract that constant updating of the algorithm tailored to hold your attention, and it also means you have to think instead of just being served content to feel outraged about. 

The best option is to take up logic games like chess, sudoku, or crossword puzzles. Not only are these pursuits stimulating on a mental level, but they can train your brain and help you exercise your intelligence which is great for daily living or just your career in general. It also means you’ll focus on something more engaging and comfortable than whatever that next YouTube vid is.

Reading A Chapter Each Morning

If you often find yourself waking up only to check your phone, your apps, your notifications, the latest news headlines, the latest outrage, then you’re absolutely not alone. It can feel like a necessity after a while, especially because our phones are usually where our alarms are, and that means immediate exposure when waking up.

A better way to do it is to not look at your phone (outside of priority notifications), until you’ve showered, sat down with breakfast, and perhaps read a little. A chapter of a book can be nice if you have the time, but if that’s a little too much then an article, a poem, or a few pages can be nice. Here you’ll wake up your brain gently without the constant churn of social media posts that tire you out and make you feel foggy already.

Only Engaging In Long-Form Video Content

Let’s face it, we’re all probably spending too much time these days watching bite-sized video clips meant to keep us hooked with constant novelty and stimulation. There’s a reason this can become so habitual after all – the apps know what we like – but maybe also try balancing that out with some long-form video content that requires your sustained attention and focus instead.

That might involve documentaries, episodic TV series, movies, podcasts, audiobooks, or just a good old-fashioned book – anything where you’re committing to spending a decent chunk of uninterrupted time absorbed in one single narrative or topical experience. It’s hard to deny that this is better for your powers of focus, but you’ll likely find yourself feeling more fulfilled from engaging with substantial, nuanced explorations of a topic than whatever the latest headline is shouting at you.

Do you have to over-intellectualize all the media you consume? Of course not. But this approach is a healthy step forward to making better changes and also getting out of the habit of constantly engaging in quick media that doesn’t really sustain you.

Journaling & Jotting Down Your Thoughts

Of course, life isn’t always about media consumption, despite what the apps or our modern attention economy might suggest. In fact, journaling and sitting down with your thoughts can be a very healthy thing to do. 

That doesn’t mean you need to add an entry each day. But having a little journal where you jot down thoughts or stew over topics can help you understand what you actually think about things. It can help you assess your biases, and also where you may be mistaken later on. If you disagree with a subject that seems to have major consensus over it, perhaps politically, perhaps not, having this self-inquiry can help you understand why.

It’s true that in our modern age, the art of self-reflection seems to be limited. But that doesn’t mean it’s lost, nor that you can’t bring it back. If you look after anyone such as a family or a team at work, having this ability to reflect is a lovely bonus that helps you become your best.

Setting Limited Social Media Time

Oh, social media – it’s so good at making sure we never have a quiet, unfilled moment, isn’t it? Every time you try to put your phone down, those little apps are pinging you with fresh content, trying to lure you back in for a little longer. An intentional digital hermit you are not. Don’t worry, the bug has us all.

To fight back against those engrained mental habits of constant checking and scrolling, it can help to actually put some firm limits around your social media intake. Thankfully, this is just as easily done as it’s said. Maybe you only allow yourself a set amount of time per day on those apps using the set timers or wellbeing apps on your smartphone, or you make your feeds off-limits past a certain hour in the evening. 

Whatever specific tactic you use, creating some boundaries will help regain control over how much of your time and attention you’re willingly giving to those silicon valley tech bros. Perhaps you could spend that time reading blogs you like instead. Sure, that too is social media, but at least it’s curated by people you can connect with, learn about over time, and enjoy contributing to! Wink wink.

Set Only One Or Two News Alerts

Being informed is a good thing of course. But there’s such a thing as being way too informed. It’s arguable that most humans were never meant to know about every single terrible thing that took place around the world at once. Right now, you can. Odds are, there’s an absolutely horrific news story making the rounds in at least some part of the world, and as most of us are human, it does have an effect.

For that reason, just set one or two news alerts if you need them. Perhaps a severe breaking news option and a local news alert when needed can be enough for you. For most of us, that’s precisely the amount of news we need to know and can live with. Of course, you can also set them specifically in ways that relate to you, such as alerts regarding the industry you work in, neighborhood watch alerts you might have set up, or whatever else is suitable.

Have Entirely “Offline” Periods

Sometimes, you just need to get away from the screen time. Going for comfortable, relaxing walks (without headphones) can be nice, especially if accompanied by your dog should you have one. You might even just play board games with your family and only listen to music, no TV on in the background. Once the internet was a place we visited, now it’s a place we have to leave. For that reason, having these periods is a healthy approach.

With this advice, we hope you can more easily keep sharp between the ears, despite a world of online distractions.

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