Digital Dilemmas: Help! Constant connectivity is making it impossible to think

From alerts to updates to email: How to get the upper hand

Smart services aren't smart enough to factor in a little 'me time' on your behalf; they'll happily keep you updated from beyond the grave if you let them. It's time to show them who's boss - assuming you can remember, says's Natasha Lomas.

Ding! You've got mail. Bing! You've got SMS. Ping! IM incoming. Chirrup! Look there's a tweet with your @name on it. Brrring! Quick, your mobile's ringing. Meep! Someone just tagged you in 100 photos on Facebook. Oh hai! LinkedIn in your inbox again - wanting to hook you up with everyone you've ever emailed.

All this means it's definitely time for a screen break. But hang on, what's that vibrating in your pocket? Hello unread BlackBerry email. Better check what it is - if only to extinguish the flashing LED. But argh! The evil red eye just won't stop winking at me!

Ping! Ding! Bing! Brrrrrrrrrring!

I can't get no sleep...

Digital distractions

Learn how to silence the digital distractions - before they silence you...Image: Shutterstock

The digital world never sleeps, and as a result nor, it would seem, can we, the digital workforce. We're assailed on every side by a barrage of connected gadgets and services all demanding micropayment in bits and bytes of our attention.

And it's taking its toll. We're afflicted with digital tinnitus - and it's making it impossible to think.

Collectively, these high-pitched intrusions have become a gigantic wall of sound. This is not soothing background chatter: it's one long high-pitched scream for attention.

Our gadgets and services may be smart but they're not smart enough to know how busy we are. Interruption is the only interaction they understand. And even when they're not tapping us on the shoulder we've become so attuned to their nagging we feel the urge to check in anyway. They're needy, sure - but we've become needier.

Add to the mix research that suggests even an LED can disrupt human circadian rhythms - and the internet and insomnia seem destined to walk hand in hand. Shut-eye has been banished from this always-on realm. Computer does not say no - it says hello continually, blissfully unaware we can't keep up.

Been away for a week? Hello 500 unread emails; goodbye rest of day. I want an internet pause button - is there...