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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Beat Social Media Distraction Effectively

How to Beat Social Media Distraction Effectively

Social media is incredible. These platforms allow us to communicate with people in all corners of the globe, stream videos with the click of a button, and see the world without ever leaving our house. With that said, it has a dark side: social media distraction.

The average user spends nearly 2.5 hours per day scrolling through updates, vacation photos, and all manner of other content.[1]

Social media distraction can disrupt your personal life, ruin your work productivity, and steal the time you could be spending on hobbies or improving yourself. But social media doesn’t need to be banished from your life for good; it just needs to be contained. Like everything else in life, it’s all about moderation.

How do you ditch social media addiction? Try these 12 approaches to ensure you’re using it in healthy, productive ways:

1. Set a Goal

What do you want to accomplish by limiting social media distractions? Your answer to this question will influence your plan of action.

Maybe you want to stop staying up so late, surfing social media. Perhaps one particular platform is putting you in a bad headspace. Or maybe you need to stop checking social media at work.

When you’ve decided on a goal, write it down where you can see it. Put a sticky note on your work computer if checking social media at the office is the issue. If before-bed usage is the problem, place the note next to your comfy chair. Make sure it’s visible wherever you have issues.

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2. Pick up on Patterns

Usually, social media distractions start with a specific cue. What emotions trigger you to explore your favorite platform? When do these typically occur? You’ll likely find a behavioral pattern you can work on.

Identifying this pattern allows you to concentrate your efforts. Trying to fix your entire schedule at once can be overwhelming, so start with your trouble spots.

3. Change Notification Settings

You’re most likely to check your device when a notification pops up. The more notifications you get, the more distractions you’ll face. The good news is that you can customize your notification settings.

You can opt for occasional notifications or cut them out entirely. And if you really need to know when your BFF posts vacation photos, you can always turn notifications back on later.

You can also change how your device is situated throughout the day. Leaving it face down while at work, for instance, will stop the screen from lighting up and drawing your attention away from the job. If your device has a Do Not Disturb setting, feel free to enable it.

4. Start a Morning Routine

Is your gadget the first thing you check in the morning? You may need to read some emails, but checking it as soon as you wake up can lead to a less-than-productive morning of social media scrolling.

Try to steer clear of your device for as long as possible in the morning.[2] Break this rule only for emergencies or appointments, such as confirming the time of a morning dental visit. Spend the rest of your morning exercising, preparing a nutritious breakfast, or engaging in another screen-free activity that energizes you.

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To make things easier, consider using a real alarm clock instead of what’s on your phone. When your device wakes you up each day, it’s a lot easier to get drawn into using additional apps that waste your time.

5. Limit Your App Usage

On your smartphone or tablet, you can monitor your app usage to see precisely how much time you’re spending on social media. Use this as a benchmark to look for improvement. Some devices even let you set time limits so that you never go over your daily allotment.

Another approach is to delete social media apps from your device entirely. Force yourself to go to the trouble of booting up the computer any time you want to check your social media profiles. Without notifications burning a hole in your pocket, avoiding social media distractions becomes doable.

What if you’re not ready to go whole-hog? Placing your apps in a hidden folder on your device can keep them out of sight, out of mind. When you use your phone for something else, it will be more difficult to get sucked into social media.

6. Use a Web Blocker

The possibilities of the internet can be too tempting some days. It’s so easy to move from work to social media in the same browser, and recovering from a distraction can take nearly half an hour.[3] Why not block yourself from accessing social media in the first place?

Web blockers stop you from going to certain sites on your device. You can activate this feature during work hours so that you can’t turn to social media when your mind starts to wander. This final line of defense is effective if you need it.

7. Establish No-Tech Zones

You can designate specific areas in your home or workspace where technology is or isn’t allowed. If you keep your devices away from the places you need to focus on, you’ll be less likely to get distracted by social media.

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The bedroom, bathroom, dinner table, and home office are all examples of places where a device might end up being too distracting. Limit yourself to only using your devices in other rooms, and you’ll cut down on idle scrolling time.

8. Implement a Rewards Program

If you can’t help but resort to social media at every turn, it’s time to make yourself earn your social media time.

A classic incentive method is to give yourself a list of tasks to complete before indulging in less productive activity. These can be work tasks, household chores, or more positive activities, such as getting outside or developing your talents.

Reward yourself with social media time when you finish each activity. Vacuuming your room, for example, can earn you a five-minute social media break. Don’t let yourself log onto any platforms until your task is completed; otherwise, it nullifies the entire exercise.

9. Try Timeboxing

Timeboxing is a time management technique in which you block off sections of time to dedicate to singular activities. Say, you can block off the first hour of work to reply to emails. As soon as that hour is up, close your email and move on to the next block.

By using this method, you can block off the sections of time when you can and can’t use social media. Stick to your time boxes, and you’ll train yourself to only check social media when it’s called for. Every other block will be dedicated to a different distraction-free activity.

10. Pick up a Hobby

If you can find something worthwhile to fill your time, you won’t feel the need to turn to social media often. Engaging in a hobby keeps your mind trained on what you’re doing, which is half the battle.

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Hobbies can be as simple as reading a book or as complex as woodworking. Whatever you like to do, fill your time with productive activities that you can turn to instead of social media.

11. Attempt a Social Media Fast

Sometimes, serious problems call for serious measures. If you really need to reset your brain to stop getting distracted by social media, try social media detox for a full week. It will be difficult, but it will help you see that you don’t need social media to live a full, productive life.

What should you do once the week is up? Remember how you felt when you weren’t constantly scrolling through tweets and Facebook posts. If you’re worried you’ll forget, schedule a monthly or quarterly fast to remind yourself. Here’s one example of what you should do: Lifehack Challenge: 24 Hour Digital Fast.

12. Post Less Frequently

Many people use social media to document their lives and achievements. While this is a great way to get loved ones involved in your life wherever they live, it’s also a chance for distractions to find their way in.

Start by limiting yourself to one post per platform per day. That way, you can still stay in touch without giving yourself as many opportunities to get distracted.

Bottom Line

Mastering your social media habits will take some time. Don’t get discouraged if you still get distracted every once in a while. When in doubt, look back to your life goals. Achieving them will feel so much better than spending your extra hours scrolling through social media.

More on Avoiding Social Media Problems

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

Between a cell phone that’s always ringing, a plethora of social media apps vying for your attention, and a steady stream of text messages, it probably feels like you can never get a moment of peace.

Think about how many times you’ve been working when a notification pops up on your screen. The message might be important, but more often than not, it’s just spam that pulls your focus away from your project.

Imagine all the times you’ve been in a meeting and felt the distinctive buzzing of your cell phone. Putting a smartphone on vibrate doesn’t make it any less disruptive for its owner. You instantly divert your attention from the other human beings in the room to the device in your pocket.

Distractions make you work harder

Studies suggest that the average American worker is interrupted every three minutes and five seconds.[1] An estimated 6 hours of productivity are lost every day to distraction. When someone is interrupted, they not only have to deal with the disruption, but then they have to use even more time and energy to get back into their work.[2]

It’s not only annoying to feel like you can never situate your mind on one task, but it also keeps you from doing your best work. The greatest ideas require time for mental processing. You have to do research and dig deep to come up with exciting ideas. If your focus is shallow, your ideas will never be able to develop to their fullest potential.

Our concentration naturally fluctuates

It would be nice if you could simply disconnect from the internet and have a consistent ability to concentrate, but that’s not how your brain works.

If you were to visualize your concentration throughout an 8-hour work day, it might look like this graph.

Throughout the day, you will experience peaks and valleys in your energy levels. You might feel a jolt of productivity after you go for a walk or have a cup of coffee, but there will also be points in the day–like right after lunch–where you’ll feel sluggish. You create your best work during periods of high energy and focus.

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Protecting those peak periods ensures that you can maximize your work time. When you constantly shift your focus back and forth between your work and distractions, your brain has to work extra hard to get back on track. Opening your Facebook page or replying to your friend’s What’s App message is almost never worth the productivity cost.

You will still have peak moments of productivity when you face interruptions, but the peaks will not be as high. This is because jumping between items wears you out. You lower your potential productivity every time you give in to distraction.

To be successful, you have to root out anything that stands in your way. The inability to concentrate will affect your work performance, but you can take control of the situation.

How to maintain focus in a sea of disruptions

Being able to give your best at work doesn’t mean that you have to disconnect from the world entirely. You can still enjoy the connections you have through technology, but there are a few ways that you can keep them from having a negative impact on your work.

One of the first things that you can do to minimize your distractions is set aside a time for them. Give yourself windows of time when it’s acceptable to look at Facebook or respond to messages.

Start by listing out the things that most commonly distract you. Maybe you get sucked into the rabbit hole of Facebook if you get a notification. Perhaps you find that your friends texting you throughout the day pulls you from work. Whatever it may be, write it down.

Then, set aside a time slot in which you are free to use the apps as you please.

Plan to use your distracting apps during times when you need to restore energy. As you can see from the graph, times when you need to restore your energy are also times when you may not be as productive.

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Instead of giving up peak energy times, sacrifice the time when you aren’t working well to engage with technology. When your recovery time has ended, jump right back into your work.

It might seem counter-intuitive to make time for these distractions during your day, but if you create a schedule that protects periods of peak energy, you will actually boost your productivity. Instead of being inundated with notifications or thinking about the next time when you are allowed to check your messages, you’ll have designated times for that.

Rather than shift your attention at random, you can focus fully on the task at hand until it’s your time to play on social media or check messages. Using this approach can help you regain a lot of your brain power because you won’t have to waste it on refocusing. You’ll simply do less important tasks during natural breaks in your day.

Set up a system to limit distractions

Just because you vow to check your messages and look at social media during certain times doesn’t keep distractions from happening. You’ll need to set up a system to keep disruptions at bay.

You can’t always control when someone is going to send you a message or when you’ll get a notification. You can start by adjusting your settings. Most apps allow you to opt out of notifications. Stop push notifications from non-essential apps.

For everything else, you need a different plan. We may be able to avoid opening social media tabs, but sometimes the messages still pop up on our phones. At the same time, most of us want to continue to use social media to stay connected and receive important information.

Try planting some trees with your concentration

The Forest app helps you train your brain to avoid distractions during work time. You can use Forest on your desktop or smartphone. The app works by enabling you to establish an amount of time during which you do not wish to be interrupted. You can adjust the amount of time from 10 minutes up to several hours.

Refer back to the list of distractions that you made earlier. You can take the websites and apps that drain your time and add them to the Forest’s blacklist.

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    The amount of time that you wish to stay off of distracting websites and apps is called a “planting session.” When you decide that you want to “plant a tree,” the countdown timer starts. If you access a blacklisted website during the time when you are supposed to be working, the app will remind you that your tree is still growing. You will have to decide whether or not you want to kill your tree, which is harder than you might think.

      When you can successfully stay off of distracting sites for the allotted time, your tree grows, and you get coins. The coins will allow you to unlock other types of trees.

        As you continue with your work session, you can see a countdown timer and an animation of a tree growing from a seed to its full splendor. Usually Forest also includes an inspirational saying to keep you on track if your focus starts to drift.

          To make the impact of your efforts even greater, success in Forest also gives you the option to plant a tree in real life.

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          This simple visualization can help you break the bad habit of checking your phone or accessing websites that disrupt your thought processes. When Forest asks you if you would like to “give up” and kill your tree, most often you will realize that the reason you were heading to the blacklisted website wasn’t that important anyway.

          Sometimes you just need a small reminder to stay on task. Use Forest during your peak productivity times so that you don’t waste the most valuable parts of your day.

          You have to identify the distractions before you can stop them

          You may be wondering how much of your peak productivity time you are losing to mindless distractions. The only way to find out is to take a closer look at your habits. Notice the times when you seem to do your best work. Name the sources of notifications and interruptions that decrease your attention. After you have done this, use an app like Forest to cut out the distractions.

          Using Forest will not prevent you from being tired, and it won’t keep you from staring off into space, but it will make you think twice about wasting time on sites that distract you.

          When you are able to experience a distraction-free work environment, you’ll recognize how much more you are able to accomplish. You’ll be able to do your work more efficiently, and you won’t feel the fatigue of constantly re-centering yourself. Soon, your desire to stay focused will be stronger than the temptation to click on your notifications.

          Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek/ Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

          Reference

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