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Guide to a Distraction Free Digital Setup

Volume 75 - four minute read

Feb 23rd, 2018

To be honest, at times one of the hardest things for me while working is staying on task. It used to be very difficult for me to work on something for more than 30 minutes at a time without having to pause and go on Twitter or check the latest thing I posted in a Slack channel.

Over time, I realized I needed a process and digital setup set in stone for me to rely on and got to researching. I’d like to share those tips with you and can bet they will help you get on the right track to a distraction-free workday.

💤 Do Not Disturb

I feel like this one is obvious, but do not disturb mode on Macs is a lifesaver for me (pro-tip: if you hold down option and click on the notifications icon it toggles DND mode automagically).

As someone that works remote and from home most days, I sometimes feel the need to always reply on Slack to my coworkers. This of course doesn’t go well with when I am trying to get in focus mode and get some great design work done, so I enable DND mode when needed. Of course I don’t keep this on all the time to make sure I can be responsive. If I’m working on more administration work or some illustration work I usually toggle it off.

🤬 Go F***ing Work Extension

Google Chrome Store
Pardon the language, but this is actually name of a plug-in I use daily! GFW gives you the ability to block any website from being visited and gives you a nice little motivational screen and a laugh as an alternative if you visit one of those sites. You can also pause it for a few minutes if you are in need of a break or have to check something on those sites. The site settings are customizable at any time as well, so you can add or delete sites to it as needed.

This plug-in has been really helpful for me when I find myself typing in “tw…” as a habit to visit Twitter. So instead of wasting a few minutes, you’re able to stop yourself before you can even get to the site and get a nice reminder of where your focus needs to be instead.

🎷 Music Playlists

Music plays a huge part of my life and ultimately my workday. It really can make or break my productivity and I adjust playlists accordingly. A lot of the time when I’m designing or coding I listen to hip-hop/rap music believe it or not. When I feel distracted and really need to get focused with writing or research I listen to ambient, electronic, classical, and jazz genres. I’m also a big fan of Spotify’s featured playlists like Electronic Concentration, State of Jazz, and Butter to name a few.

Something small that has become a big help for me is putting playlists on shuffle when I play them. I find that if I get used to the order of music it tends to get distracting and starts to feel monotonous so I recommend doing the same! You can also follow me on Spotify or Lastfm if you’d like to see what I’m currently jamming to.

❌ Nothing Unnecessary

I’m a big proponent that my surrounding visuals have a subconscious impact on my mental state. Call it my OCD if you want, but things need to be a certain way physically and digitally for me to feel comfortable and productive in a space.

A relevant example is my digital workspace. I keep nothing on my Desktop except for one folder and keep a usually minimal background image (the one below is a gradient border one I made), everything else is in a Dropbox or Google Drive folder. I also have 0 icons in my MacOS top-bar (I do this using Bartender for Mac). For me personally this really helps me stay on task and not have distractions or tasks I think of when looking at items in my Desktop and tob-bar.

🖥 One Monitor

Personally I have found that I can’t have more than one large monitor in my workspace. I do enjoy having more room to work and keep my laptop on a stand next to my monitor, but I find having too much room is actually distracting.

I do all of my main work on my monitor and keep my laptop on the side with Slack, Spotify, and one Google Chrome window (for when I’m referencing something usually). When I’m not on full-time work, I close my laptop and center my monitor to keep distractions to a minimum and have my full attention on what I am working on.

Dennis Cortés
Designer & Illustrator that codes, writes, and makes music.