How to overcome digital distractions

Digital technology is meant to make our lives easier, to make everything better. It’s supposed to save us time, yet we somehow waste more time than ever by getting lost in digital distractions and everything that technology has to offer.

Right now, my phone is in Airplane mode, yet I find myself automatically reach for it every couple of minutes. I know that none of my notifications will pop up, but I can’t help it. I’m often not aware of just how easily I get distracted these days, until it’s time to sit down and work or write. A 30-minute task can easily turn into a 1-hour task when you allow those distractions to pull you away from your work or chores.

DO NOT DISTURB

This is an obvious solution to a problem: putting your phone in the *do not disturb* mode. Or, better yet, turning it off- which I have to do all the time. When you’re working on something important or very involved and you’re really “in the zone” do you allow things like an email notification distract you? It’s hard to snap back into that focus, once that initial distraction happens. It’s almost like taking yourself out of that moment, out of that place of focus and concentration, and landing at a slightly different place- that focus is often lost.

Of course, this doesn’t always work. I, for instance, take a lot of work-related phone calls at home, after hours, so I can’t always turn off my phone, but I do sometimes mute my email notifications. Unless I know I’m waiting for something urgent, I mute my  phone notifications and check my emails only about 3 times a day. It doesn’t seem like a big change, although it does depend on the amount of emails you receive. BUT imagine if you received 5 emails an hour, and answered them all right away, while also working on something important- you once again remove yourself from that place of focus.

FOREST

I already mentioned this app in a few of my posts, but I still use it all the time. Forest is a great app to use if you find yourself being constantly distracted and reaching for you phone while working. Also, kind of cute solution to the problem: you set the time- let’s say 30 minutes- you plant a tree and put your phone down. During those 30 minutes, you cannot reach for your phone- otherwise, your tree will die. The key is to eventually build a forest, which gives you a sense of achievement. Seeing your tree wither and die away is a bummer, so it makes you think twice before reaching for your phone.

ABOUT THOSE BROWSER TABS

How many of them do you have opened at the moment? Sometimes it seems like there’s almost too much information available to us. I mean there’s no way we can absorb it all. This is something that I do all the time: find a couple of interesting articles, decide to read them at a later time; next thing I know, there are about 15 browser tabs opened because I never got a chance to read the first article, but also, in the mean time, I found another one I wanted to read. And another, and then another.

I’d lie if I said that this is something I don’t struggle with anymore. I do try to keep only about five of those tabs opened at a time and to actually close everything out when putting away my laptop. Not easy to do when you do most of your work from the computer, but totally possible.

SET BOUNDARIES

The sad thing is this: digital distractions don’t only pull you away from your work, but they can also affect your relationships with others. I can easily say that about 90% of my close friends/family have their faces buried in their phone for majority of time we spend together. Well… at least everyone who’s younger than me does this 90% of the time. Yes, there are brief moments of laughter and conversation, but as soon as that notification goes off, the connections is lost. Well..  guess what happens next? It feels weird to be the only person sitting at a table actually looking up, so I reach for my phone.  I sometimes feel like I have to compete for their attention, which to me, someone who didn’t grow up around cellphones and remembers dial-up internet, is still a very strange feeling.

The point that I’m trying to make is this: we need to set boundaries. I think that the key to this, is to recognize when that digital distraction happens.  No digital devices at the table, no playing with your phone at bedtime. Once you are aware of those sudden urges to reach for your phone (especially when spending time with friends) try to put some space between those two moments and resist the urge- set boundaries.

There’s no denying that digital technology has changed our lives for the better. I mean, I’m living an introvert’s dream over here; I have my internets, I have my Netflix, my Alexa to keep me company and I don’t even need to leave the house to shop- I can do it right here from where I sit. At the same time, I sometimes think that somewhere along the way we’ve lost the sight of things that matter;  it’s not what everyone is doing on Snapchat or Facebook, but staying present and making *real* memories.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for many years and as a result I loved surrounding myself with distractions. I hated being still, I couldn’t stand silence, because that meant being alone with my anxious thoughts. I slept with my TV on, I turned the radio on as soon as I woke up. One morning a few years ago I woke up before my alarm went off and stared at the ceiling before getting up. The house was so quiet, but I heard all these birds sing and chirp right outside my bedroom window and it was the most beautiful thing ever. I looked out the window and saw the sun rising and just couldn’t stop staring at it while listening to the birds sing. When my husband woke up, I asked him “are these birds always this loud?” he looked at me with a funny look on his face “yeah… what do you mean? They sing like this every every morning.”

I never heard them before. So many years living in our house, and I never heard those birds sing because I was always so distracted. That, was one of those moments that makes you fall in love with life all over again. To do that though, you have to stop and appreciate what’s around you.

Do you find yourself getting distracted easily? How many browser tabs do you have opened right now?

  • I’ve heard of the forest app and have just downloaded it onto my phone. I never really got the point of it other than a timer but you hit the nail on the head. it gives you a sense of accomplishment once you grow a forest (ding ding ding!! It all makes sense!)

    http://thedianaedition.com

  • Ana

    I always leave my phone in another room while I’m working and it really works! xxx
    http://fallingforablog.blogspot.com.es/2017/04/instagram-inspiration-march.html

  • Angel Bland

    I can definitely relate to all of these points.
    The forest app is so interesting and I’m glad you shared that. I have at least 10 browser apps open on my computerright now. Not only is it distracting but it slows my computer down. I keep doing it anyway! Smh. I have been working on slowing down and enjoying every minute lf life as well.

    • I love that app! Haha I feel your pain with the browser tabs! I’ve been so much happier since slowing down a little. I still like to keep busy but it’s nice to stop and appreciate the little things we often ignore ;)

  • Yep, I’m that person with a million browsers open! That and multi-tasking are things I’m working on in my life and to just be present and focused on one thing at a time. I use Forest too, especially at work, and it helps a lot!

    http://www.insearchofsheila.com

  • Seven tabs open, very easily distracted! I love the sound of the Forest app, will have to take a look at it!

    Danielle’s Beauty Blog

  • That’s so true! Even when I don’t want to check my phone, I do it. It’s like a reflex. Although, I’m happy that when I’m fully concentrated in something, I ignore my phone completely.

    xx, Melissa
    https://elephantontheroad.com

    • Right? It’s become such a natural habit for most of us. You’re lucky! I always say that whenever I’m *in the zone* and really concentrated, everyone I know decides to txt or call me haha. I have to turn my phone off all the time ;)

  • I had/have a major tab problem, but pocket is so useful. I just save everything that I would have as an extra tab and then I can focus on one thing at once, then come back to the other stuff later

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

  • Kat

    Hi Paula, how are you today? I so agree with what you have written here. I luv luv luv to read and, since Twitter and Instagram and various photography, lifestyle, cooking, pet, nature blogs I follow – I have determined that my reduced time has been drastically reduced and, of course, it is self-imposed. Particularly, Instagram – oh my gosh, I can easily easily get into bed at night and figure I will read…. two hours later I have Instagramed my reading time away and it’s time to go to sleep. Amazing how Instagram can do that but there are so many fabulous photographers on there and links to interesting cooking and other websites and the time just gets away…. I should set limits I told myself a month or so ago and I have but need to be stricter but, as you and others have said, it’s like a compulsion or reflex and we all reach for our phone or iPad without thinking. I do enjoy listening to podcasts and youtube interesting videos while working out so that part is okay… but everything you say here is right on. Be well, sweets.

    • Instagram is the only social media I actually enjoy using (other than Pinterest, since I consider it to be more of a search engine). I could scroll through my feed forever! I love anything visual so I do find it to be distracting at times. I love listening to audiobooks when editing, but I’m so easily distracted lately that I often need complete silence to work hehe ;) Hope you’re doing well Love!

  • The app Forest sounds quite cool, I didn’t know about it but I’ll definitely give it a try! I try to put my phone on silent and facing down so that even if I get notification I don’t see them! x

    Ariadna || RAWR BOWS

  • That Forest app. How sweet!!! I need that in my life as I have a love-hate relationship with my phone. Xo

  • Three browser tabs, because I have been working with them before I took this (scheduled) break for some blog reading. My eMail notification is turned off all the time, I chrkc my mails at set hours and only allow myself to be on social media three times a day. I don’t want my kids seeing me on the phone constantly and I have to stay focused when working, because my time is so limited due to the kids.
    Being a blogger it is not good not to be active on social media, but that is what suits my life best.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    • Checking your email at set hours is life-changing! I struggle with being active on social media- it drains me out sometimes!

  • I forgot about the Forest app… Downloading now :)
    The only tabs I always have on is Gmail and, well, Facebook, but since I only use it to receive messages and barely ever look down my feed, I forgive myself that one. I hate having multiple tabs open. It is IMPOSSIBLE to focus this way :)

  • 22 tabs atm! But usually most of them are “static” in a way, meaning that I’ll get back to them at some point, and the ones I keep checking are mail, Facebook and Twitter. I had tried downsizing in the past, but I’ve come to terms with the fact this is what I do and who I am and there’s always SOME reason I need those tabs open at once.
    But even without them, distractions are huge—even if I only had the three I mentioned. I wanted to upload a photo for my blog earlier today and when I went to Finder to rename it, I ended up watching and deleting some videos I transferred from my cellphone!
    I think I’m just so absentminded in general, even without the Internet. Remember when you decide to clean out your closet or desk and end up reading your old diaries and stuff like that? Yep, that’s me :)

    I guess I just need to say to myself “okay, now you focus and do this one thing”. It usually happens when there’s a deadline around, so… :)

    http://www.wanderingpolkadot.com

  • I never heard of that app before, but now I’m really intrigued! Thanks for sharing!
    -Maddy
    cheers-maddy.com

  • Such a fab post – I really need to work on this! Also how amazing does that Forest app sound – need to download! x

    http://www.stylepetal.co.uk

  • Awesome post! I’ve been using Forest for a while now and absolutely love it to get things done! It can be a complete game changer!

    Thanks for the awesome post! Have a lovely Friday!
    Michael
    https://www.mileinmyglasses.co.uk

  • I can get easily distracted and end up doing things that I wasn’t intending to do. We are so addicted to the technology, whenever screen lights up, I get the urge to check it immediately. Putting the phone on airplane mode is actually a good idea, you just eliminate the distraction. Last night I had over 20 tabs open then when husband took the laptop, he started complaining. It is hard to control when you find so many interesting things, right?

    Ela BellaWorld

    • I think we live in days when there’s just so much information coming at us from all directions, we often don’t know how to deal with it all. We want to do it all, but it’s often impossible hehe ;)

  • Forest sounds like an amazing app, I’m downloading it now!

    Jenn │ Beauty by Jellybean

  • Right now, I have 6 tabs total, which is actually pretty good compared to my usual. I’ve heard of Forest, and I’ve tried a few anti-distraction apps before, but my phone isn’t the problem. It’s so easy to start browsing Pinterest when I’m using my laptop to write an essay or a blog post.

  • meg

    This is such a good post. And oh god, if I could the tabs open right now? Including your blog…23 – blog posts I want to catch up on but know I’ll get distracted and will end up closing without reading!

    Meg | Elmpetra

  • Natalie Redman

    Setting boundaries is so important when it comes to the digital world, otherwise you can be disconnected with your real life!

    http://www.upyourvlog.com

  • Helen Wakefield

    I get distracted by my phone easily, but I try to keep it on silent and out of sight whilst I’m working and then give myself regular breaks where I can check it, I find this helps me to stay focused. I have three tabs open right now, but yesterday when reading up on SEO I had a lot more than that! I think we can give ourselves information overload and want to find out every detail when researching something new, but as you mentioned there’s too much information available for us and we want to consume it all. I love the sound of the Forest app! Great idea. And I never think about digital distractions as much in a non work sense, but I think you’re right about setting boundaries. I’m going to make an effort to be more present when socialising, focusing on conversations rather than my mobile. Thanks for the post!

    Helen │ The Little Giraffe
    http://thelittlegiraffe.org/