This Is How I Block Out Distractions When I Need to Get Work Done

The Muse
The Muse
Jul 8, 2017 · 3 min read

As part of my job working at a university, I manage a Facebook page for the student group I supervise. We share announcements, articles, stories, and the occasional “dad joke.” I love being part of it because it’s an easy way to communicate, it allows me to witness their bonding, and it keeps me “hip.” (Because at 27, I’ve resigned myself to being a Friday night cat lady).

When a Facebook notice pops up in the bottom left of my monitor, I just can’t help myself — I click on it immediately to see what’s been said. And while the posts usually make me smile (or cock my head in confusion), it’s horrible for my productivity. I tend to get distracted a lot, and I know I’m not alone.

In fact, Laura Schwecherl, a marketing consultant at Briteweb, says “nearly 50% of American employees say they work for only 15 minutes before becoming distracted, while 53% report wasting an hour or more a day because of disruptions.” And that’s not good.

But this distraction epidemic doesn’t always have to win; you have much more control over it than you think. And lucky for you, today I’m going to share with you my go-to prevention strategy for beating it.

When you need to get down to business, you must pretend as if you and the task at hand are the only things in the world for the next 30 minutes, hour, or however much time you’re dedicating to it.

To do this successfully, you need to protect your environment from all those pesky notifications. You must build a moat and pull up the drawbridge so none of them can enter.

First, turn your phone on silent.

Next, place it somewhere out of view — your bag, jacket pocket, or a drawer — so you aren’t tempted to glance at it when it lights up or when your mind starts wandering.

After that, turn to the other big perpetrator: Your computer. Disable any pop-up notifications on your monitor (social media, news sites, and so on) and exit out of your inbox completely. If your company uses a group chat system, either sign off or put it into “Do Not Disturb” mode.

Finally, select background noise that you know puts you in the zone — whether that’s ambient noise, silence, or chit-chat.

This strategy will not stymie every distraction — after all, it’s a strategy, not magic. But the point I’m getting at is that you can take control over the situation. Really, the power to be productive is in your hands. Literally, you can use your hands to turn your phone off if it’s distracting you. So if this tip doesn’t work for you, take the opposite tack and try one of these six apps designed with the same goal in mind.

Because at the end of the day, if you don’t finish something because you were too busy sending text GIFs to your best friends, the only person you have to blame is yourself.

More From The Muse

Originally published at on July 8, 2017.

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