4 most common ways of getting distracted
In today’s world, easy distractions are everywhere. A single click and you can have “fun” for hours.
Because the possibilities to get distracted are endless, it is also difficult to figure out how to protect yourself from them.
To make it easier for you, we’ve identified the most common ways of getting side-tracked and how to prevent them.
1. Checking the phone first thing in the morning
The alarm clock on your phone wakes you up. You roll over and grab your phone. You’re supposed to wake up so you don’t have to rush. Instead, you decide to check what’s new in the world, and you start scrolling. Time flies and suddenly you realize that you will be late. You have to start rushing.
Now, this is the better version when you have external obligations that push you to be somewhere on time. Scrolling on your phone turns a calm morning into a frazzled rush.
It’s even worse for people who are self-employed, students, or simply don’t have to anywhere on time. When they grab their phone in the morning, they can waste another 1-3 hours or even the whole day. Mindless scrolling early in the day puts them into an unproductive “zombie mode” from which it’s hard to get out of.
Even if you quit scrolling after a while and you finally want to get something done, you realize your brain is totally overloaded with information and can’t focus properly.
There are 2 ways to stop looking at your phone in the morning:
1. Learn to not look at your phone in the morning (more difficult, less hassle)
You basically want to unlearn this habit and the best way to do it is by replacing it with a new habit. So this is the streamlined waking up you want to get to: when you hear the alarm go off, you wake up, turn it off, and go do your next activity.
You achieve this in these practical steps:
- Don’t have a phone near your bed.
Make it so that you have to stand up to turn off the alarm. This step alone won’t lead to success, however, because it is easy to succumb and return to bed with your phone in your hand.
- Keep the next step in mind.
What’s the first thing you want to do in the morning? Do morning hygiene? Drink some water? Focus going straight from turning off the alarm to that activity.
- Have a clear plan for where you want to start working or studying.
What’s the first productive action to take?
Additionally, you can set your phone up so that you can’t access distractions. You can do this in 2 ways: by using apps to limit how you use your phone, or by removing the most distracting apps altogether. We recommend the second option. No distracting apps = no morning scrolling. Experiment with this. Remove the most distracting app from your phone for a day or two and see what happens.
2. Buy an analog alarm clock (easy to execute, more hassle)
The alternative is to use an analog alarm clock instead. If you do this, you don’t have to have your phone within a reachable distance. Some people even go to the extent of leaving their phone in a different room.
This allows you to wake up and do whatever you really wanted to do.
However, it can be a hassle, having another thing in your life. That’s why cellphones are so handy. What about when you travel? What about if you don’t sleep at the same place all the time?
If you think that the first way of trying to displace the morning scrolling habit can work, do that. If you keep getting distracted by your phone even after those changes, get an analog alarm clock. Sometimes we need a radical change to succeed.
2. Notifications on while working
You’re trying to focus but you receive yet another notification. It’s difficult to resist checking what happened. You give in and take a look. You open Twitter or Instagram and start responding, scrolling... and bam, 20 minutes are gone.
The solution here is simple: turn off all the notifications.
Realistically, most messages can wait for half an hour or more. You can respond on your schedule, once you’ve done some work. However, if you need to respond for some reason, you can at least turn off all notification sounds. If you silence all notifications, only incoming phone calls will be able to grab your attention.
You want to shift from getting distracted involuntarily to deciding when you want to check what’s new.
Unfortunately, silence all notifications, you can still end up in a social media rabbit hole. Why? Because we often want to get distracted.
3. Mindlessly checking distractions
You stumble upon a problem, you get anxious, you don’t want to deal with it. The work you’re doing right now isn’t fun. You open a new tab and check what’s new on Twitter/Reddit/Hackernews. Or you grab your phone that’s on your desk and open Instagram/Messages/news. You get your dopamine fix immediately. You feel better immediately, but no work got done. Now, the work is even more daunting, and you feel even less like doing it.
Prevent yourself from following this destructive behavior pattern.
If you struggle with your phone:
Use the Rule of 3 Senses - keep your phone out of sight, out of reach, and out of hearing (Do Not Disturb mode).
If you don’t need to respond to anything, put your phone away while working. Got a drawer out of reach? Or a high shelf in another room? Put your phone there. Even having your phone in your field of vision can be distracting.
This will stop you from mindlessly grabbing your phone to check it.
If you struggle with checking distractions in your browser, download a website blocker. We haven’t found a great solution that would suit our needs so we decided to create our own. Download our extension and focus better when working in the browser.
In less than 2 minutes, you’ll have your browser set up so that you can get work done, and still have fun later on in the day if you want to.
4. Indulging in distractions too early in the day
I’ll just watch one episode, then I’ll start working. I’ll play one game, then I’ll stop and start doing something important. I’ll just check a couple posts…
This is how we let our day get disrupted.
Here are 2 scenarios that typically unfold when you indulge early in the day:
- After finishing one episode, you feel lazy, and so you watch another episode. And then another, and another...
- Or you finish one episode, and actually start working. Only, work now doesn’t feel great. It’s difficult. It’s boring in comparison.
Don’t let yourself do this. Use all the willpower you have to not get side-tracked in the AM. We typically have more energy in the morning. For many of us, those are the best hours of our day. Don’t squander them.
The solution is simple: Set a time boundary for distracting activities. Example: during weekdays, I can’t play, watch TV shows, etc. before 4/6/8 PM.
This does require some willpower, but you can do it.If you get off track a lot by procrastinating during the day, try it.
Having this clear boundary doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun, it just means that you’ll be smarter about managing your mental state. You can still have something you look forward to - though it shouldn’t be the only thing in your day that brings you joy.
Besides, leisure activities after work are much much more enjoyable. You can say to yourself: “I did my work for today, I can do whatever I want now.” There is no guilt, no shame. You do the work, and you have fun too.
The most common ways to get distracted are:
- Checking the phone first thing in the morning.
Put your phone out of reach so that you need to get out of bed to turn off the alarm. Remove distracting apps from your phone.
- Getting notifications while working.
Turn off sounds for all non-essential notifications. Most messages can wait until you’re done with your work session.
- Mindlessly checking distractions.
Put your phone out of sight, out of reach, and out of hearing. Install our extension to block distracting sites in the browser.
- Getting distracted too early.
Set a rule for yourself: No gaming/TV series/YouTube/... before __PM. Use your willpower to stay on track in the morning.
If you avoid these frequent mistakes, you will get more done, and feel better at the end of the day.