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8 Tips for Nonprofits to Combat Digital Distraction and Improve Productivity

By February 2, 2018

By: Beth Kanter, Master Trainer, Speaker and Author

Nonprofit technology doesn’t have to be just about your CRM - it can be about your workplace wellness and productivity, too.Ever hear of something called “Nomophobia? The word itself is an abbreviation for ‘no-mobile-phone-phobia’ and refers to the anxiety you feel when you don’t have your mobile phone handy or have a signal. It is one of a growing number of “digital diseases” that can cause painful physical symptoms as well as mental health issues that ultimately make you less productive, depressed, and sick.

Our use of digital devices, apps, email, and social media (even for work purposes) has crossed the line into an unhealthy relationship. For some, it has become a behavioral addiction. Bring these habits and behaviors into the workplace and we create an toxic environment that threatens our wellbeing and resilience to do the important work that nonprofits need to do.

The benefits of taking control of your digital life in and outside the office are immense: greater presence and mindful attention, enhanced productivity and creativity, better relationships, improved sleep and less risk of anxiety. Bring these benefits into a nonprofit workplace, and perhaps some of the stress levels will go down. We wrote about this in depth in the book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit.

Here are a few tips for nonprofits:

Admit It, You Are On Your Mobile Phone Too Much

Self-awareness is the first step to changing habits. Start to notice how much time you are on your phone and what you are doing. Apps like Moment can help you monitor. You can make it fun to put down your phone using the Forest app (better than locking it in a closet.

Turn Off the Damn Screen and Go For A Walk

Sitting in front of a screen for too long can cause eye strain, neck problems, and other pain. Worst, there is trouble at the top: brain fog. A quick fix is take a walk – even if you just go down the hall and back. Moving reboots your concentration and replenishes energy. (But leave your mobile phone behind and if you are tempted to take it with you re-read Tip 1 and book a session with Mindful Techie who works with nonprofit professionals.

Practice 20/20/20 for 20/20

Eye strain is a common workplace complaint. Symptoms include headaches, dry eyes, red eyes, trouble seeing clearly even wearing glasses, and more. One trick to reduce the impact of eye strain that I learned from a grantee of the Moses Taylor Foundation’s Healthy Workplace Initiative was something called 20-20-20. Every 20 minutes, take a break and look 20 feet ahead for 20 seconds to rest one’s eyes from the screen.

Break Your Breaking News Addiction

We need to get rid of all those breaking news alerts on our mobile phones, especially if there is a notification sound and it pops up on our tiny screen screaming “read me.” It breaks our attention and we are training ourselves how to distract ourselves. I’m not saying don’t consume breaking news at all, just consume breaking news mindfully. And manage your notifications – you can always search online for news, but you don’t need it on your home screen.

Create Non-Digital Space in the Morning and Evenings

Don’t have the last thing you do at night and the first thing you do in the morning be looking at work email, or Facebook or breaking news. If you are looking at any screen before brushing your teeth in the morning, stop. Create a different evening routine that lets you say “Goodnight iPhone” an hour or two before bedtime. Here’s some tips.

Tech Tools to Meditate and Manage Screen Time

Several suggestions on tech tools for mindfulness are here, including:

  • Flux on your computer shifts the blueness of the computer’s screen at night to be more in the red spectrum, which makes it easier to fall asleep. (There’s a lot of research on blue light, melanopsin, melatonin, and sleep patterns )
  • RescueTime logs (and can limit access to) distracting websites you choose you want to spend less time on.
  • Goodnight Chrome automatically turns off the Chrome browser at a time you set every night.
  • Meditation apps like ZenFriend or Headspace can help you de-stress on the go, even if you don’t have a dedicated space for mindfulness at work.

Embrace Email as an Opportunity for Mindfulness

Take a deep breath. Embrace your next email as an opportunity to practice empathy, which is one thing that tends to get sidelined when we’re stressed. Recognize that sometimes, it helps to “go slow to go fast” – and it can help to pause and reflect on how to build a relationship, take the other person’s viewpoint, and see the big picture in waiting to send an important email for a few hours. Especially when heated emotions are involved. More tips on email as a mindfulness practice are here.

Scramble Your Apps on Mobile Phone to Change Bad Patterns

Your thumbs have memory – and if you mindlessly pick your phone up and start tapping – before you know it you are in a repetitive loop of checking everything. Here’s more advice about disrupting non-productive use of your mobile phone and avoid addiction.

Come join me for this FREE webinar hosted by on February 13th. I’ll not only be talking about personal use habits for nonprofit professionals but how to bring technology wellness into the workplace as a cultural norm.

What’s your favorite tip for guarding against digital diseases? How does your nonprofit focus on technology wellness or well-being in your workplace? Share your thoughts on Twitter: @SalesforceOrg and @kanter.