Distraction is something that plagues me and I’m sure you as well.
These days we are bombarded by constant advertising & messages, vying for our attention, trying to suck us in.
I know that this is a constant struggle for me.
To the point that I have become addicted to the internet. Addicted to my phone. When I’m not plugged into the net I feel irritated and irritable – classic withdrawal symptoms.
And I bet that most of you reading this also feel something similar. Maybe you’re not aware of it, but if not – then you should be.
What are the things that distract me most?
Apps and games on my phone are big culprits.
Facebook is particularly bad. When I enter it I find myself scrolling for a long time. It is highly addictive.
Instagram is similarly bad.
Notifications from games often send me over to play them and I can lose an hour easily.
Going over to Google Now and reading the news. Or heading over to news websites.
Getting notifications from my work related apps – email, slack.
On the web, I often find myself doing useless tasks – such as checking analytics, checking revenue reports for our apps. (It’s OK to find a scheduled time to do this, but I find it generally is a bad habit).
Facebook on the web, like mobile, can suddenly waste unintended time.
I can also spend quite a bit of time watching TV series online. I start with one. Then another. Then another. And then hours have gone. Not that watching TV series is totally bad, but spending a whole evening binge watching doesn’t leave me feeling better.
Curing Modern Day Distraction
So, here are some solutions for our modern day distractions.
1) Delete apps that you have no use for from your phone
I deleted Instagram – it was purely voyeuristic, so that is out.
2) Nuke the internet on your phone
I just started doing this today – this is a great one. Turn off wifi and mobile data and voila! Suddenly your phone is a phone once again and not a high end pocket sized computer. No more distractions. Instead only turn on the internet only if you really need to – and then turn it back off!
This allows me to check in to work related stuff when I’m mobile, but not to get distracted by all the notifications coming in.
3) Leave your phone at home
This is also great. If you go out with friends or with your spouse, then consider leaving your phone at home.
My girlfriend and I have started doing this from time to time and it feels SO freeing to be out without the safety blanket that we mindlessly reach for in our pockets.
I need to do this more!
4) Turn off notifications from apps
I switched off notifications from all the apps that I found distracting.
Facebook I didn’t delete – because I need this for my work testing FB login to our apps and competitor apps and I’m in some business related groups which are important for me. But I shut off all notifications from FB so that I would only go into the app on my own accord and not because I got some silly notification.
5) Get a feature phone?
I have a friend who still carries around an old Nokia that can only make calls and SMSs! No internet!
Personally I find it too useful and important for my business to be able to respond to my team when I’m mobile, but this is a brave and possibly sensible step for some.
6) Don’t put your phone next to your bed at night
I’ve been doing this for a while and this is great.
If the phone is next to me in my bedroom then I will automatically reach to it before I go to sleep to check stuff. And when I wake up I’ll automatically reach for phone and get sucked into its endless labyrinth, ruining the mindfulness that I’m trying to cultivate.
So when I go to sleep I leave my phone in the family room, set the alarm and head off to bed… phoneless!
7) Schedule Screen-free time
I’ve been trying to institute screen-free time before I go to sleep.
I’ve set an alarm for 21:30 at night which is supposed to remind me to shut off all screens (phone, computer – I don’t have a TV at home!).
… and 2230 I have an alarm which is supposed to remind me to get into bed.
I’ve been a bit ‘naughty’ with these rules, so I’ll need to try and push these habits a bit harder.
8) Use web apps that block sites and internet
I’ve been using StayFocusd which is a web app for Chrome which can let you easily block certain sites or limit the amount of time you spend on those sites (and even sites linked to from those sites!)
It also has a “nuclear” option to block all problematic sites or even switch off the internet completely for a certain amount of time…
Theres another app that seems quite popular, Freedom, which I have yet to try – works on iPhone, iPad, and Mac and Windows.
For android devices there are apps like ClearLock which might do the trick… downloading that one right now!
And this one seems REALLY cool! Forest dubs itself “the best cure for phone addiction”!
9) Find more productive things to do when you are disconnected
Now that you’ve freed up a lot of your spare time, you should fill it in with something more useful and productive.
Some things that I do or would like to do (or do more of):
Go for a phone-free walk with your spouse.
Write a blog post.
Exercise (I like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), running.
Meet up with friends.
Speak to friends.
I hope this helps you. In these modern times I think way too many of us are internet and phone addicts. I know I am and by taking these steps above I hope you and I can become less distracted & more mindful in our every day lives!