Using apps on a phone can lead to greater distractions. A self-inflicted interruption can happen as much as every 15 seconds. One study found that people switch between computer programs as much as 566 times in an average workday. In addition, after being distracted in a self-inflicted manner, it can take as much as 25 minutes to return to a task. In the meantime, an average of 2-3 other tasks have appeared to fill in the meantime.
This is largely because the brain has a built-in novelty bias and is constantly on the lookout for new and usual things. This may be a result of the need to spot dangers before they become a problem. Because distractions can be so effective, it’s important to deal with them ahead of time before being forced to expend willpower to defeat them as they happen.
A distraction is anything that can turn someone away from that person’s intentions. There are four types that can be turned
into a matrix as follows:
Create this distraction matrix and fill it up with every single distraction that can be thought of an categorized into the matrix. It doesn’t matter if the distractions are relevant to any given moment. Simply put them down in order to be aware of what they are (or, perhaps, keep multiple matrices).
Be aware that distractions from others are not as damaging as distractions to oneself. The best way to deal with either is to keep remembering to re-focus on the original intention and get back to work.
The best way to deal with fun distractions is to actually enjoy them. Use them to relax and enjoy life a bit, while periodically making a note about getting back on track when the distraction is over.
Use the following chart as a guideline on how to deal with distractions:
Remember: Remove every object that is potentially more stimulating that what the task is. This forces the brain to work on the task at hand, the only source of stimulation available. A few ideas are:
Creating a distraction-free mode can help make mental energy last longer by reducing the amount of distraction that eat up
mental fuel. That said, not all distractions are equal. Think about what distractions appear throughout the day that are not worth losing 20 minutes over. Email can be one such distraction, but it is also impossible to eliminate. For distractions like
this, try the following:
The smartphone is more powerful than the computers that sent astronauts to the moon and it uses that power to distract its users. Consider the following ideas on dealing with these devices:
Meetings are one of the biggest distractions throughout the day. They are incredibly costly and can waste hours of work depending on the number of meetings throughout the week. Here are some ideas for dealing with them:
Disconnect from the Internet to the greatest degree possible. For all its benefits, it can still be an enormous time trap. About half the time spent on the Internet is pure procrastination, reducing the amount of value per moment that it takes up.
People with smartphones tend to check them every 3 to 5 minutes. What is more, the mere presence of a smartphone in the periphery of one’s vision has been found to interfere with social and relationship quality. Keep phones and tablets in another room to avoid distractions, if possible.
Cleanliness can also be a factor. Clean environment tend to be more conducive to focus and messy environments tend be more conducive to creativity.
Research suggests that productive music has two attributes. First, it sounds familiar. Second, it is relatively simple. Further, ideally, there are no words to listen to. Essentially, the music doesn’t have much going on when listened closely, but can be comforting and easy when it sits in the background.
The value of background music is to drown out outside noise. Conversations and chatter can distract, especially if one is prone to imagining the other half of a phone conversation. Using music to mute the noise out is helpful.
The brain is an idea machine. This also means that thoughts are not meant to be stored in the mind for too long. Keep a notebook handy at all times in order to jot ideas and information down. This used to be called a Commonplace Book and it was once quite a popular thing to have. Storing the information there allows the brain to free up its resources for Hyperfocus.