Photo by Charlz Gutiérrez De Piñeres on Unsplash
My alarm goes off — time to wake up. I sleepily reach towards my phone to turn it off and lay back down in bed, phone in hand. Before I know it distraction has struck. I’m 3 swipes deep into my LinkedIn feed and will soon be late for work if I don’t start getting ready.
A new study from IDC Research found that
80% of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning
Phones are a ticking time bomb of distraction and 8⁄10 of smartphone users allow their smartphone into their lives within 15 minutes of waking up. That is insane. I was one of them.
Recently, I read Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable and it completely changed the way I manage my time and has had a significant impact on helping me accomplish my goals. As I have been paying more attention to distractions in my life and how to combat them, it has blown my mind to see how seemingly small distractions can snowball into wasted time which prevents me from accomplishing my goals.
Those 5 minutes of social media browsing when I had planned to get ready to go to the gym? Suddenly 10 minutes have passed and I’ve convinced myself that I no longer have time. Goodbye gym.
The 30 minutes I planned to spend brainstorming on company strategy during a rare break in my schedule? A seemingly innocuous slack message catches my eye sending me down a rabbit hole and now my time is gone.
Technology is a great tool, but so many of its apps are designed to suck us in. If you are not active in controlling technology, it will surely control you and your goals will fall to the wayside.
The goal of this article is not to summarize the book Indistractable. If you have not read it, stop reading this, and go buy it. You will not regret it. Instead, my goal is to give you three tips from my journey that have significantly helped me.
Do Not Disturb
You may not know this, but almost every technological device you use has a do not disturb mode. My Samsung Galaxy phone has it right in the pull-down menu and 1 swipe over. When you need to focus —turn do not disturb mode on. Period.
Research has shown that getting a notification and ignoring it can be just as distracting as getting a notification and checking it. So don’t let any notifications distract you. Here are some guides for various apps and devices:
No more excuses. Turn off these notifications when you know they will be distracting and get focused work done.
Forest is an app that I would have never believed would work. The idea is incredibly simple. You turn it on, set a timer, and then hit “Plant.” This goes ahead and starts to virtually plant a tree in your forest. The app prevents you from doing anything else on your phone unless you are willing to kill your fledgling tree.
If you want to do something on your phone, all you have to do is click a button to kill your newborn tree. That’s it. Turns out that tiny bit of friction is enough in almost all cases to prevent me from using my phone when I want to focus.
I have found this to be incredibly valuable because it turns out when I am working on something hard my mind wants an escape. The easiest escape tends to be my phone. Without even thinking about it, I find myself reaching for my phone to check for phantom notifications and then boom — distracted! With Forest turned on, it is significantly easier for me to put down my phone and get back to work.
A Clean Home Screen
Take a look at the home screen on your phone. Is it full of apps just waiting to distract you? Mine was.
What used to happen to me was I would check something relevant on my phone, perhaps a work email, and then end up back on my home screen. My eye would catch apps like LinkedIn or Twitter and before I knew it I was distracted by social media. I think it is important to note that these distractions were all incredibly short — less than a minute. But what I have discovered is those lost minutes start to add up and interrupt me from entering a flow state while working. That state when you are fully immersed in your work and firing on all cylinders.
So — right now, go and clean up your phone screens. Remove any distracting apps so you can’t get to them without going deeper into your phone’s app directory. If you are more extreme, you can even remove the apps and only access things like Twitter or Instagram on a browser. You will be amazed by how much less distracted you will be when those app icons are not staring you down every time you look at your phone.
Your New Superpower
There you have it, three simple steps that have helped me immensely to be less distracted and flow faster towards my goals. I hope you will give these all a try and discover your new superpower — the power of being indistractable.