How to Avoid Distractions and Focus on Your Work
I have considerable concentration issues. The Internet is bursting with games, social media, and continually updated news – all deliberately and expertly designed to capture our attention. Like the rest of us, my physical environments are often so full of people, objects, and electronic stimuli that they make it very hard to focus, whether working at home, in an office, or anywhere other than in an isolation chamber.
Here are some techniques with the ability “to center” and help you avoid getting tangled up in time-wasting distractions. Maybe some of them will work for you too.
Put your phone in airplane mode
Eliminate almost all your phone’s distractions by turning on airplane mode. You will temporarily stop receiving calls, texts, notifications, beeps, buzzes, banners, and other intrusions. You can still use wi-fi to check your email, pull up a photo, or check a site if you need to – but your phone will otherwise be blissfully silent, without any of the nearly constant demands on your immediate attention.
Use the Pomodoro timing method
The Pomodoro method, named after an Italian kitchen timer that looks like a tomato, has many devoted fans who love the way it boosts their productivity. The method is simple but effective. Set a timer for 25 minutes. During that time, focus entirely on your work. Then for the next five minutes, take a break. That 25-minutes work time plus five-minute break time is called one “Pomodoro cycle.” Do four cycles, then take a longer break of half an hour.
It works because it’s easier to focus when you know you only must do so for a limited amount of time. The short breaks function as rewards in addition to helping refresh your mind.
Your timer can be low or high tech – a mechanical kitchen timer, a watch, or a Pomodoro app on your phone or computer. Everything about the Pomodoro technique can be easily customized.
I find that if I’m working in an airport or a cubicle or any other noisy environment, white noise, or soothing nature sounds – piped directly into my head with earbuds or headphones — block distractions and relieve stress. White noise, which sounds like radio static, contains many frequencies, so it masks conversations and helps neutralize other distracting sounds. Two variations available today are pink noise, which is more energizing, and brown noise, which is often more relaxing. Earth sounds, such as ocean waves, rain, and forest streams, also have a similar masking and calming effect.
For a long-term solution, try practicing meditation. Slowly but surely, train your brain to be better able to focus. By doing this repeatedly, you develop the ability to be more aware of all the times and ways you are getting distracted during your day. This awareness is a positive step toward helping you return your attention to your work instead of getting lost down an Internet rabbit hole or chasing some other distraction.