We're interrupted by phones, tablets, and laptops every twelve minutes on average, which begs the question--are we really getting any work done at all?   We're so easily distracted by our devices that we have allowed them to dictate the amount of work we accomplish in a day. Frequent interruptions, of course, aren't conducive to a productive work day--in fact, studies have shown that they can cause a fall in IQ, and can also be equivalent to the loss of a full night of sleep. Always checking our phones means we're always trying to stay up to date on what's going on in our personal lives, the lives of our friends, and the world, which also means we're constantly being stimulated. Staying in this state increases production of adrenaline and cortisol, which over time can be detrimental to the brain. The increased production of stress hormones can inflame brain cells, which can result in conditions like anxiety and depression.

So how can we combat this? Well, the simple answer is to take a step back and relax, allowing your brain to switch off and rest. Some ways to increase your level of concentration include meditation, deep breathing, brainteasers, physical exercise, and sleeping. Even listening to your favorite song to encourage a release of dopamine and have the opportunity to have five minutes to yourself can be helpful. Clearing your mind might seem counterproductive, but it's very difficult to concentrate when your mind is going a mile a minute thinking about things that distract you from the task at hand.

It takes about fifteen minutes for the brain to re-focus after being diverted, so the "five more" rule is recommended to retain focus. Whenever you feel like quitting, just do five more: work on that presentation for five more minutes, read five more pages, do five more sets in your exercise routine. The theory here is that when forced to keep functioning, your brain will gravitate more naturally toward staying in work mode. Breaks are important, and it's good to take frequent breaks to prevent burnout, but they won't do anything for you if you weren't really working in the first place.

Our devices are very helpful for staying connected and updated in a digital world, but when it comes down to it they are just tools. They shouldn't rule our lives and we shouldn't allow them to rob us of our focus. Try turning on 'do not disturb' while in class or at a meeting, and power down your devices more often. There are also many different apps and browser extensions (available for free, no less!) that are meant to restrict frivolous activities and promote focus. Remove televisions, computers, and phones from your sleeping area before bedtime if possible to give yourself adequate time to power down and get ready to rest.