How To Focus with Distractions


Photo by Michael Dales (Creative Commons)

About a week ago, I decided to unplug from the internet on Sundays. If I pickup the computer on a Sunday, it is to write (or watch the Super Bowl as TV reception was bad last night).

Suddenly I have more focus. I removed many of the distractions altogether.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect; a couple times I have forgot and checked email, Facebook and Twitter.

Old habits die hard. 

There are some great productivity applications out there that can help you focus. I recommend Cold Turkey for Windows. I’ve heard from a friend that Self Control is good for Mac. Both apps cut off your internet access to the websites you want to block for a certain amount of time. If Facebook is your time killer, block it for a few hours. Maybe it’s Twitter. Cut the cord for a half-day; then do it again for a longer time period tomorrow.

I am a self-confessed tab browsing junkie. I can open about 50 tabs and (in my mind) I have a reason why each tab is open. I’d say about 99% of my tabs are for “research” or this looks “interesting.” I finally came to the realization that this is actually killing productivity and focus. I recommend this extension for Chrome called Controlled multi-tab browsing. If you use another browser, I’m sure you can find an extension that is very similar.

Sometimes even when writing, it is easy to get distracted with the features in Word or Pages. I found this free web-based writing tool called Writer. There are several viewing options, including an old-school green font on black background (hello Frogger anyone?!) and you can email yourself your work if you would like.

Also consider using the pen and paper approach. Sources state that you use a different part of your brain when you use physical paper versus typing words out.  If you set aside your iPhone and just have a notebook, obviously it is hard to look at Pinterest isn’t it?!

Remember, you are ultimately the one who has to decide to focus. These apps and tools I have mentioned can help, but the decision is yours.

Do you have any tips that help you focus? Please share them in the comments.