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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Coping in a Distracted, Disconnected World: ADHD, Multitasking & A New Technique for Promoting Focus

by Edward Hallowell, M.D.

Technological innovation has changed our world more profoundly than anything since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press.  This change has brought both spectacular progress and devilishly complex problems.  New patterns of behavior are now epidemic; a person checks their email and texts at least once every 90 seconds and wonders why people complain they can never get your full attention. As a result, we are increasingly wrestling with the issue of what to do about what’s happening and how to cope in a distracted, disconnected world.

Based on his book CrazyBusy, Dr. Hallowell offers these practical strategies for helping you  take back control of your time, use electronic devices responsibly, and reestablish the human connection that is all too often missing.

1.   Education. First, take an honest assessment of how the use of electronics and technology has taken control of your life. Are you texting friends or colleagues while sitting next to them instead of having a face-to-face conversation? Are you spending too much time interacting on Facebook instead of hanging out with friends? Involve your family in the discussion, point out how you grapple with the over use of technology and ask them to assess their use of electronics as well. To get the best outcome, it is essential that all family members be involved in managing screen time.

2.  Set a goal of how much total time should be spent each day on electronics.  Then break the total goal into time categories: how much time where, doing what, with whom.

3. Plan daily periods of abstinence.  These “brain breaks” provide intervals of time in which no electronic device may be turned on.  Yes, this will be difficult for you at first.  So try beginning with 10 minutes twice a day.  Then increase that time by 10 minutes a week until you reach 1 hour a day or whatever goal you all want to achieve.  To go one step further, plan a “de-tox” day over the weekend.  Reserve a Saturday or Sunday, during which you and/or your family has absolutely no electronic usage whatsoever, except lights and appliances.  No TV, no phone, no Internet, no video games, no iPad.  Get the family or your friends involved in planning the “de-tox” day, i.e., play a board game, go for a hike, visit a relative or family friend, volunteer at a community event or any other ideas the family comes up with as long as they don’t involve any electronics.  Then have fun reconnecting.

4.  Make it a goal to restore the healthy habits that over use of electronics often disrupts: Get more physical exercise, especially outdoors.  Eat family dinner together. Get enough sleep.  Have some uninterrupted face-to-face conversations; Pray or meditate.

5.  Replenish daily your dose of the other Vitamin C, Vitamin Connect.  Overuse of electronics depletes one’s store of the human connection. Spend time having a face-to-face conversation with people, uninterrupted by anything. Try banning electronics when you’re out with friends or during dinner.  Having face-to-face conversations with others is an important step

6.  Monitor progress together.  Set time aside each day or weekly to see how everyone is doing.  What difficulties are they having? What difficulties are you having?  How does everyone feel about this?


Setting goals to limit use of electronics and helping each other achieve those goals can be a family and/or friend project. It won’t be easy, but don’t give up. Your success in addressing the overuse of electronics one strategy at a time will lead to your success, and a lot more joy for the entire family.

Adapted from CrazyBusy Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap!   Ballentine, NY, 2006.


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