Let's face it, we're surrounded by distractions. Whether you're working from the quiet of your office, your dining room table or the local coffee shop, things are going on all around you that try to capture your precious attention.
Even in the most quiet of places our own technology seems to be working against us with obnoxious popups, noisy alerts and new tabs opening with almost every click of the mouse. What can we do to remain focused amidst the barrage of distractions on our senses?
Well, here are five ideas that work for me.
1. Use technology to keep on track.
There are some interesting technologies, built specifically around focus, that can help keep you engaged on your tasks. One that I particularly find helpful is called Momentum -- which displays a beautiful scenery shot on the new tabs that you’re opening and has a spot for you to define your particular area of focus throughout that particular day.
The beauty of Momentum is that it distracts you when opening new tabs with an incredible landscape photograph, while reminding you of your focus point for the day, all in attempt to keep you from opening 23 subsequent tabs -- which is clearly a focus disaster.
2. Close your email.
This is one that I really struggle with and must make a very concerted effort to obey. Close your email when you’re not specifically working on reading or sending emails. The problem is, when your inbox remains open you’ll see the little icon that tells you you’re receiving new email, which is going to naturally pull you away from whatever you’re working on, and thus, kill your focus.
I don’t know why those little icons are so tempting, they just are.
Related: The Secret to Productivity: Focus
3. Say no to social.
This seems like a pretty straightforward one, but it’s important to bring up. Stay away from social networks. Yes, that video of the tiny Chihuahua playing with the giant Mastiff is highly entertaining, but all you’re going to end up doing is meandering through the wormhole they call Facebook, only to realize that all of your “friends” are lying to the world about how awesome their lives are -- and now it’s been two hours and you’ve accomplished absolutely nothing.
4. Turn off your cell phone alerts.
The noises that our pocket computers make throughout a given day are like a little electronic orchestra of distraction. Unless an alert is of immense importance -- meaning that if you don’t respond to the particular need in five minutes or less, you’re going to spontaneously combust -- just turn them off. It may be a bit uncomfortable at first, but trust me, you’ll get used to it and your focus will improve greatly.
5. Tape your computer.
Now this is one of my most recent focus hack favorites because it’s so simple, yet highly effective. Take a 10-inch-long piece of masking tape and write yourself a question on it with a sharpie or marker, then stick the tape along the top edge of your computer screen.
Examples of a question could be, “Is what you’re doing productive?” or “Is this going to grow your business?” My recent favorite, which currently dons the computer I’m typing this article on, “Is this revenue-generating activity?”
This may seem a bit ridiculous, but there isn’t a more simple way to remind yourself to stay on task than have an obvious question that has an obvious answer smacking you in the face every time you look at your monitor.