6 p.m on a Tuesday evening I open up my laptop to look up a recipe for dinner. I have some chicken so I google “easy chicken recipes.” Delish appears at the top, “damn their SEO is good” I think to myself. I quickly grab my notebook to make a note to myself to follow up about that later. I see a recipe for chicken taquitos, before remembering that I had saved a chicken recipe on Facebook. As I head to my saved posts I notice I had a couple missed messages on Messenger. Shoot, I also had DM on Twitter I was supposed to respond to earlier. These are just a few things I mean when I talk about avoiding online distractions.

The list goes on and on of distractions that you can encounter at any given time while connected to the internet. We are so often distracted that “phantom vibration syndrome” has become a real thing. We are so distracted that we are being distracted by not having distractions. It is mind boggling. We need to collectively reclaim our focus. We have to get better at avoiding online distractions

Minimizing Distractions from Your Pocket

One of the biggest sources of everyday distractions are the buzzes and chimes that come from your pocket. With email, social media, texts and phone calls all being linked to a handheld device it is an uphill battle to maintain your attention. Here are my favorite ways to minimize these distractions.

Turning Off Notifications

I very recently realized I was averaging between 100 and 200 notifications a day being sent to my phone. Even if it just takes 10 seconds to check the notifications, that means 16 to 33 minutes of my day I am just checking my phone. That is way too much. I went through and turned off all notifications. Then I went through and selectively enabled certain buzzes and rings. For example, I gave my girlfriend her own ringtone so when she calls me I know it is her. Another thing I did was setting my email accounts to only notify me of replies, everything else I check twice a day to see if I missed anything important. I also set my work email to only send notifications during work hours. These few tricks will significantly reduce online distractions

Removing the Psychology of Color

I will admit, this is one I haven’t implemented yet but it makes sense. Humans drive a lot of emotional and psychological responses to certain colors. That is why most notification alerts are red. Red screams, “Pay attention to me” like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Most phones nowadays come with an option under their general settings to go gray scale. This removes those tempting red bubbles as well as the vibrant colors of apps jostling for your attention.

Avoiding Distractions on Your Home Screen

There are times you are going to have use your cellphone to do something. Avoid being distracted by removing everything from your home screen except necessary tools. Things like your texting app, internet browser, contacts, clock, calendar and calculator can all stay. Everything else must be hidden away in folders, or even better, off of your screen so you have to search for them by name. This extra step to get to the app will remove the temptation of seeing it front and center.

Separation of Distraction and Tranquility

Every single person needs “me” time. We need time to recharge our batteries and get ready for the day ahead of us. There are some places that we should just not take our phones. For example, when getting ready for bed plug your phone in outside of your bedroom. When eating dinner with your family or loved ones, leave the phone somewhere else so you can enjoy their company. The more places you can be without needing your phone, the less likely you are to utilize it as a distraction.

Avoiding Online Distractions on Bigger Screens

The aforementioned topics are all well and good if your only distractions are coming from your phone. However, if you do any work online or use a computer in any capacity, you know you can get distracted just as easily on your desktop or laptop. These distractions significantly reduce productivity and sell out your attention to the advertisers and marketers who spend big dollars to win it.

Just Give Me the Content

One of the most distracting things about websites now a days is that there are ads EVERYWHERE! Advertisers are getting trickier and trickier on how “natural” these ads look as well. That is where tools like uBlock Origin come to save the day. Ad blockers remove annoying pop ups, video ads as well as sidebar ads in most cases. This has become a cat and mouse game where advertisers are losing dollars so they are fighting back with workarounds. Either way, having one of these installed on your browser will definitely help remove some distractions

Working Without WiFi

If you have some work that can be done without having an internet connection, then do it. Turn off your WiFi, unplug your Ethernet cord or disable your hot spot. Whatever you have to do to turn off your internet. This will allow you to only focus on your work and the software that you need to use to accomplish that task. I wrote this article by disabling my internet so I could just hunker down and write. In the war against avoiding online distractions the quickest win might be avoiding being online all together.

Measuring Your Time

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I am not saying to never use social media or go on a YouTube binge. The difference between distractions and actions is our intent. If you are choosing to engage in nonproductive activities just make sure you measure your time while doing so. Do not let your day slip by idly because you let the distractions guide your attention. One of my favorite quotes is “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” I think this is extremely applicable to fun activities. Sometimes you just need a 0 day where it is nothing but things you enjoy. You just can’t let that be your everyday.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we are fighting an uphill battle against distractions. It will take hard work and discipline to win the war. With a few conscious decisions in how we treat out technology around us I believe we have a fighting chance.

If you are looking for some further reading about removing distractions or the marketing techniques that are being used to influence you, check out our list of books every man must read.

Leave a comment below with tips and tricks that you use to fight distractions. Any best practices? Let me know what works for you!