Eliminate Nagging Distractions
Distractions haunt all of our waking hours. They steal our focus and sap our time. Some are self inflicted – minor procrastinations that we lean on when we really don’t want to work or be productive, activities that fool us into thinking we’re doing something. Our productivity tools – smart phones and tablets, the internet and social media – betray us, through treacherous time vampirism.
Constant little irritations creep into our brain folds and build up, producing stress and diminishing motivation. Whether online, in the office, or around us at home, we learn to ignore or just deal with many of these things, but they still take their toll. Here’s a handful of distractions you can eliminate with relatively minimal effort:
Clear Out your Social Media Feeds & Free Your Mind
Facebook users tend to accumulate hundreds of friends and “liked” brand pages. If you spend more time scrolling through your feed than actually reading individual posts, you’re likely getting a lot more noise than signal.
Take half an hour and scrub your feed of family and friends that post nothing but drama, nonsense or links to stuff you don’t care about. Family just posts stuff that makes you mad? Unfollow their posts. Friend constantly vague-books passive aggressive comments or shares every mundane annoyance each quarter hour? Unfollow. Brands spew nine link shares a day, none of which you care about? Unfollow.
You don’t have to unfriend anyone, just vanish them from your feed. When you see a post from them, click the little arrow at the top right corner of those post, and choose “Unfollow ‘Friend Name’” from the dropdown. Boom, done. It’s amazingly liberating. Soon you’ll lean the posts you see down to just relevant, interesting stuff without digging through a hundred obnoxious distractions.
On Twitter or Tumblr, follow that same formula. Unfollow or mute anything that floods your feed with junk. It’s easy to accumulate on social media. You won’t miss what you’re not seeing, and you’ll gain some mental relief.
Learn to curate. Social networks are enough of a time waster as it is. At least you can make that time count for a little more.
Delete Time Waster Apps from your Phones & Tablets
The age of the smartphone ushered in the age of distraction. We don’t allow ourselves to stop and just think anymore. When there’s a quiet moment, we pull out our phones and fill the time with unproductive mental junk food. On any diet, curbing the bad eatings habits starts with removing that junk food from your pantry. If it’s not in front of you, you won’t eat it. Same goes for time-killer apps.
Go through the apps on your phone. First, eliminate any you haven’t used in the last 90 days. If it’s been that long, you probably have no real need for them. Trash games you don’t play, shopping apps, pointless utilities. If you have a bunch of system apps you don’t need but can’t delete (iPhones have a dozen of them), stick ‘em all in a folder (call it “Purgatory”) and move it as many screens or pages back out of sight as possible so you never have to look at them again. Give yourself less to dig through.
Next, look at the apps you use most. Do you accomplish anything when you’re on them? Do they serve any real purpose other than killing time? Do you lose minutes or hours to Pinterest, Instagram or Tumblr, just browsing, hearting and reposting things you’ll never look at again? Do you check Facebook every 5 minutes in case somebody liked or commented on your post?
This instant gratification is an unproductive feedback loop, and it’s stealing time from your life and ambitions. Delete those apps. In a week you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with them.
Not ready to take the plunge and delete? Stash those app icons somewhere inconvenient. Shove them 5 pages deep, or nestled away in a folder. Make them a pain to access. Even a few swipes and taps feels like too much effort after awhile. Soon you’ll train yourself out of the habit, realizing that those apps weren’t even worth a few extra finger taps.
Go Beast Mode on your Email Inbox
Are you getting 30 emails per day that you just instantly delete? Coupons and product offers, hotel and travel notifications, stuff you rarely if ever open. A bunch of inspirational daily or weekly messages you never actually read. A dozen subscriptions you’ll definitely, probably, almost certainly will not get around to reading.
The energy used to acknowledge and delete these messages is energy wasted. Get crazy with the unsubscribe button. Kill the mailers that you don’t use frequently. Boot out any company or product that emails too often, but offers nothing substantial to go with it.
Regular coupons and sales are useful, but if they come consistently you don’t need to be looking at them all the time. Set up filters to divert coupons and offers away from the inbox and into folders you can check when you actually need them (Gmail is particularly great at this). I have a “Coupons” folder that just gets restaurant deals. I never see them until we’re heading out for dinner and I specifically check that folder. They are there when I need them, but otherwise out of my way.
Doing this not only saves a bit of your sanity, but it allows you to engage more fully with the people and companies that matter to you. Less time spent futzing with the unimportant means more time and mental energy for the good stuff.
Filter Internet Articles to Avoid Procrastination Reading
The wonder and trouble of the internet is that there’s always something to read, watch or play. If we desire to be distracted, the internet is more than happy to help. For some, a big time consuming habit is reading articles posted in our social media feeds.
The web offers up a myriad quality content resources. But there are a million more content-mills producing low-mental-calorie clickbait articles, reposts of other people’s videos or enthusiastic but empty commentaries. You might find yourself idly clicking through to read stories about nothing you’d ever actually care about. But the urge to procrastinate, to just fill time, leads you to click, read, shake your head, and maybe rage about the inevitable vitriol in the comments section.
An easy way to control this content consumption, and keep track of things you’re actually interested in, is to never read an article as soon as you encounter it. Instead, bookmark the link or, better yet, save the story to a service like Pocket. Later, when you have available time for reading, you can revisit your saved stories and read the ones most pertinent or interesting, and delete the fluff.
Soon, you should start to hesitate before saving many of these stories. It will occur to you that you’re unlikely to read them later, so there isn’t any point in saving them. Which makes you realize that they didn’t matter in the first place. And, of the ones you do save, you’ll still only read a quarter.
With a little distance from discovery, you will filter down to only the articles that really matter to you.
Schedule “Get It Done” Days
Our homes may be our havens, but they are also stacked floor to ceiling with distractions. Lingering chores or unfinished projects clutter our minds and intrude on our focus.
Maybe you never hung those pictures after moving into the new house. Need to fix that broken floor tile. Have a room to rearrange. Or maybe you’re just behind on the dishes. Little issues accumulate into stress and mental mess. They turn our thoughts away from the work at hand.
Do some real life filtering, too – get rid of books you bought but will never read, magazines you did read but have held onto, movies you likely won’t watch again. Even when we don’t actively notice them, looking at them every day takes a small toll that adds up.
Plan a day – one a month, maybe once every 90 days – to devote entirely to eliminating those persistent projects. You should feel some fresh clarity afterwards.
Apply a few of these suggestions and you should see a noticeable uptick in your productivity. Or at least feel some mental relief and additional clarity. You’re a person on a mission. Don’t let those roadblocks slow you down.
What are your productivity power-ups? Let us know in the comments.