Eliminating Distractions II

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One year ago I wrote about eliminating distractions, something everyone should focus on doing.  And being a work-from-home father of a energetic one year old, I need all the focus I can get while I'm at work.  Life improved a little bit but a month ago I had another internal meltdown about being pulled too many ways.  And the source of being pulled too many ways?  Me.  I put myself in a position to pulled so I've put a halt to that.  The following are the ways I've released myself from all of the unneeded stress and distraction.

Take the Time to Unsubscribe

I'm as guilty of this as anyone else:  simply deleting emails we have no intention or desire to receive in the first place.  I beg of you:  take the minute to unsubscribe from each rubbish email you receive.  The time it takes to archive/delete these emails every few days adds up, and any moment you spend on crap emails is wasted time.  And they don't deserve to be able to distract you.  Fuck 'em -- get rid of them for good.

Google Inbox

Google Inbox seems to promote getting through your email quickly.  There's seemingly no "mark as unread" and its grouping of emails makes it easy to swipe and move on.  Even if the email we get isn't spam, I'd bet we'd agree that at least 50% of said email isn't important, or even necessary.  Email should be looked at once and a reply or deletion should be made -- do whatever it takes to get through each and every email at the time you view it.

Remove Work Email from Phone

I've always felt an intense ownership over any project I work on, whether I'm the lead or an errand boy for the site.  That lead me to setting up my work email on my personal phone and tablet.  For five days a week there was no distraction, but receiving work emails on the weekend didn't allow me to "get away."  I'd receive a work email on early Saturday morning and my weekend would be spent stewing about the contents of the email.  Here's something that we should all realize:  we deserve a personal life.  We shouldn't be interrupted during a family trip to the zoo by a tedious email -- any critical issue will result in a text or a phone call.  When you're away from work...be away from work.

Unfollow Everyone

Twitter is bound to be a distraction but when you have dozens of unnecessary accounts you follow, you're going to get distracted twice as often. Get rid of the fringe Twitter accounts -- less tweets means more important information received. Get rid of the crap follows and focus more. Same with Facebook and other social networks -- hide or dump the fringe people and you'll be much happier.

Close Unneeded IRC Rooms

Being in an IRC room gives anyone the ability to ping you.  Which usually ends up in a distracting alert.  Close the room -- you don't need to be there.  I'd write more about this but bailing from a chat room is so fast that it doesn't require more information.

These are my most recent steps in being distraction free.  My first iteration was one to let me focus more on work, but my most recent effort is to get away from work during my free time.  What do you do to dodge distractions?  Please, please share!

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  1. The way that I avoid distractions is by having 90 minute focus blocks scheduled at precise times: 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM, 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM, and 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM.

    During these periods, I put my cell phone on airplane mode so that I don’t get any incoming calls or texts (I turned off my other notifications, except for Google Calendar notifications). I don’t check e-mail. I don’t allow any distractions. When the 90 minutes is up, then I take my cell phone off airplane mode.

    Granted, I have it easier than most. Right now I work alone, I work from home, and I live alone. Still, Internet addiction provides plenty of distractions! Luckily, my strategy works for me. I’m sure that six hours a day of completely focused work is far more than the typical employee.

  2. David

    I switched from multiple monitors (3-4) to having a single big one (2560×1440) which allows me to have code and browser side by side. Every 60-90 minutes I take a short break to check E-Mail etc. The rest of the time every distraction is banished in the background.

    As far as getting away in my free time I try to stay away from the internet as much as possible as I always end up reading an article or tweet which reminds of a problem at work and just like that you’re back at work.
    Also shutting your mobile off for the day can be astonishingly relaxing.

  3. Mickey

    David is extremely right on shutting of the phone. A few days ago I forgot my phone at my moms house and got it back two days ago.

    These were two very relaxed days!


  4. Good article! It’s tough to admit that we get easily distracted or that we become obsessed with work. That’s the reason why I don’t run with my phone. I’ve had a boss pester my phone when she knew I out doing a race…on a holiday weekend.

  5. I put my phone in my desk and full screen all my windows so I can’t see notifications from anything. That has worked well for me.

  6. I recently switched phones, and had to install all new apps in it. Thankfully, it has the foresight to ask for my authorization to send phone-based notifications for all the social media apps I’ve installed. And, oddly enough, I’ve declined notifications from each and every one of them.

  7. Truly what works for me….is a multitude of steps and foresight.

    For me to truly focus, I have to turn off skype (this is a killer, if I see the window light up I go in and never get out…), facebook, twitter, etc. all need to be closed. Youtube is a slippery slope as it has many distractions, but it also has good learning material. If I don’t need it, I close it.

    Also, I need to keep e-mails closed and just focus on the task at hand.

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