Is Facebook distracting you from your work? Apparently, you're the problem.
The human attention span is woefully lacking, according to Michael Hollauf, co-founder of task management system MeisterTask. In a column published Monday on the Next Web, he cited an experiment in which university students were assigned to work at computers outfitted with task trackers.
The study, which wasn't named in Hollauf's column, found that subjects spent an average of only 31 seconds on their schoolwork before getting distracted by another task. The dip in productivity was due overwhelmingly to social media, with Facebook serving as the primary mode of procrastination.
Likewise, Mark Zuckerberg confirmed last year that Americans spend an average of 40 minutes a day on Facebook. While that figure pales in comparison to the nine hours people spend consuming digital media in total, 40 minutes is still a significant chunk of the workday. Here are three ways to ensure that social media doesn't put a damper on your productivity:
1. Switch to other assignments.
While social media tends to be more interesting than datasets, sometimes your brain simply craves variety. According to Hollauf, people will choose to switch to a new task 40 percent of the time when offered the opportunity to stop what they are doing. If you find yourself easily distracted, maybe you've been working on one assignment for too long. Instead of checking social media, try focusing on another, more compelling task to avoid tedium.
2. Turn off notifications.
Time-wasting websites are tempting enough without a constant reminder to check them. Push notifications are convenient for news and mail applications, but when it comes to social media, they can be a major source of distraction. In fact, visual and audio cues can increase the likelihood of switching activities by as much as 42 percent. So instead of receiving an endless stream of messages and Snapchats, try disabling notifications on your recreational apps (if you're really dedicated, delete them from your phone). After all, that Instagram of your boss eating ramen at her desk will still be raking in likes after you leave work.
3. Make it harder to access social media.
Sometimes the surest way of resisting temptation is to remove it entirely. There's a plethora of apps and web extensions that allow you to configure how much time you can spend on sites like Facebook, or even to block a site altogether. If your work doesn't require the Internet, some apps like Fred Stutzman's Freedom allow you to disable your Wi-Fi for a predetermined duration (in Freedom's case, for a one-time 10-dollar charge). If you have an assignment that just needs to get written, these tools can help you stave off distractions.