The Art Of Killing Distractions

2017… A wonderful time to be a tech enthusiast and information-lover. I am one of those people so I’m often prone to distraction(usually from Quora or Reddit). Information comes in articles, images, videos, gifs, etc. and can be tailored to your interests. Awesome, right? Well…kinda. Only if you use this fallout from the information explosion responsibly.

With a glut of quality content from all social media sources comes the necessary responsibility and discipline to restrain yourself from over-enjoying that content. Even though checking your email for a second or two in the middle of a task doesn’t feel “bad” or “unproductive”, abruptly changing the thing you’re focusing on starts to really have an effect on your cognitive abilities. This article on work.chron.com does a great job of explaining what happens when you get wrapped up in distractions. If you fail to control or monitor the interactions with your distractions, you can lose energy more quickly, forget more, and be less productive.

I believe the most insidious aspect of distractions is the “switching costs” associated with the change in context. This refers to the mental energy needed to exit one context (like delving deep into a large codebase) and enter another (like watching people try to spell “pregnant” on yahoo answers). Your brain has to “prime” itself to make sense of the varying stimulation, and this activity drains your mental resources. With this in mind, start breaking up your distraction periods into well defined time blocks. Instead of checking your preferred platform at random periods of the day, try setting aside 10 to 15-minute chunks every couple hours to let your mind rest and wander. This keeps the switching costs minimal and gives you control over your distractions. It could be beneficial to schedule these rest periods after you finish a major task or sub-task. This helps you reward yourself and ensures you feel satisfied with your productivity.

Other good methods for controlling and minimizing distraction are:

  • Silencing your phone during work hours
  • Letting co-workers/friends know before you start a focus intensive task so they know not to disturb you unless it’s an emergency
  • Start a “distraction count” and try to limit the number of times you’re absentmindedly distracted
  • Deleting apps you know aren’t good for you

You don’t have to rush and try all these methods at once; I think it’s better to test all of them and see which work best for you. Different people have different ways of dealing with their distractions. Try to get creative and come up with new methods of reducing “switching costs”. I’m always looking for better ways to focus myself, so if anyone uses methods that I didn’t discuss, shoot me a message or comment about it!

Overall, social media is a tool that can be useful in the right circumstances and harmful in others.

  • If you can’t find a way in which they make your life better, it’s probably a good idea to delete the service.
  • Keeping yourself spread out over 5–10 social media accounts can be mentally exhausting and not worth the time investment.
  • Determine the helpful features of your social media platforms and use them appropriately.
  • Chunking your distraction time will help you curb your usage and minimize wasted time on your distractions.

Using these guidelines, I hope you can increase your focus on a day-to-day basis and live a calmer, less distracted life. Feel free to message/comment if any of this helps or if you incorporate it into your daily routine somehow.

Thanks for Reading!

Social Impact + Marketing + Design. If you need marketing or design for your social impact venture, hit my line at adam@emote.design.

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