How to Avoid Distractions to Get More Done
Let’s face it; we live in the age of distraction. The same technology that’s supposed to make our lives easier may be ruining our attention spans.
Push notifications, emails, and social media are designed to grab our attention — and they’re succeeding.
Add to this the challenges presented by remote work — such as balancing work and personal life, interruptions, or homeschooling your kids while running a business — and it’s no wonder we’re distracted.
The average attention span dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to just eight seconds in 2015. That’s shorter than a goldfish, whose attention span is nine seconds.
The hidden costs of distraction
Distractions cost money. A sneaky glance at Instagram or a quick peek at TikTok now and then may seem innocent enough. But the reality is that logging on to social media costs the US economy an eye-watering $650 billion per year.
The sad truth is that the internet and social media are robbing us of our attention spans. The average person is distracted or interrupted every 40 seconds while working at a computer connected to the internet.
To make things even worse, it takes over 23 minutes to regain focus after a single distraction. Together, all of this means that distractions are the business equivalent of pouring bags of money down the drain.
17 ways to avoid distractions at work
Ready to fight the lure of distractions and take back control over your concentration? Here are 15 tips to regain your focus.
1. Break down your goals
We get it — you’re an ambitious person who loves to set yourself big goals. While it’s great to work toward something challenging; it can also feel overwhelming.
When we get overwhelmed, we tend to lose motivation — and that’s when we can easily fall prey to distractions.
That’s why it’s essential to break your big goals down into smaller steps that feel achievable if you want to avoid getting distracted.
2. Make a plan the night before
Don’t you hate arriving at your desk feeling flustered and not knowing where to start for the day?
Perhaps you scribble a hasty to-do list, but even so, your frazzled brain easily gets distracted.
Avoid that feeling by planning your day the night before, as it will help you stay focused throughout the day. You may also find you sleep better by taking the mental load off your brain.
3. Time block like a boss
Time blocking is a time management technique that works well for many people. Essentially, it involves intense concentration for defined periods of time, allowing a shorter time for breaks in between. Use time blocks to translate your to-do list into an actionable weekly plan.
4. Know your energy levels
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Knowing when your energy levels are highest can help you plan your workday to maximize your concentration levels and minimize distractions.
Plan your harder tasks for the time of day when you have the most energy, and schedule your less complex tasks for when you tend to be more tired.
5. Put your smartphone away
Your cell phone is a potential distraction waiting to happen. Not only do push notifications and phone calls cause significant distractions, but research shows that your phone's mere presence is enough to distract you.
If you’re really struggling to concentrate, try turning off your mobile phone or putting it in another room while you’re working.
6. Manage your physical environment
Your office setup has a huge impact on your ability to avoid distractions and stay focused.
For example, if you work in an open-plan office, you may struggle to find a quiet space to work. Whereas if you work from home, you face a whole other set of distractions.
Manage your physical environment as best you can. If you have to be in the office, minimize common workplace distractions like noise by investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
If you work remotely, try to set up a dedicated workspace and ask the people who live with you not to disturb you during working hours.
7. Declutter your digital environment
Online distractions may be the biggest distractions of all, which is why it’s so important to set up your digital space in a way that minimizes the most common distractions.
The right tech stack can help you do this. Online storage services such as Dropbox or Playbook make accessing and organizing files easy, while collaboration and project management tools allow for real-time collaboration and workflow automation.
A spatial browser — like Stack — helps you set up your digital space to maximize mindfulness and minimize distractions.
8. Tame your email inbox
Are you one of those people with thousands of unread emails in their inbox? Do you have subscriptions to newsletters from companies you’ve never even heard of? Then it’s time to clear your email inbox.
The principle of inbox zero is that every email is dealt with as it comes in — whether that’s deleting, responding, or scheduling a time to take action. Emails are a major distraction that can take up space in our minds, so dealing with them promptly can minimize that distraction.
9. Take regular breaks
You might be thinking, “don’t breaks lead to distractions?” Well, yes and no. If you take breaks too frequently and in an unstructured way, they could definitely become a distraction.
But planned breaks with a time limit — say ten minutes of rest for every hour of work — can actually help you avoid distractions by keeping your mind from getting tired, which is when it tends to wander and become vulnerable to distractions.
10. Listen to (certain types of) music
You may already know this instinctively, but certain types of music — particularly soft music such as classical music — can help increase focus and decrease distractions.
Plus, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones can block out distracting sounds if you work in a noisy environment.
11. Mute your notifications
We’re constantly being bombarded by notifications. Instant messaging pings, push notifications, and emails could distract us all day if we let them.
Muting your notifications and checking them only a few times per day can help you maintain your focus and stay strong in the face of distraction.
12. Learn to multitask the “right” way
While many schools of thought will tell you to avoid multitasking, we don’t see it quite like that at Stack. We believe there’s a right way to multitask — and it’s to group similar tasks together.
The advantage of time batching like this is that switching between similar tasks is easier than switching between unrelated tasks, making it easier for you to maintain focus.
13. Practice meditation
Perhaps you are skeptical about the benefits of meditation, but there’s solid science behind it, so you might want to take note.
A 2021 study found that a daily meditation practice can improve your attention span in just eight weeks, making it easier to avoid distractions.
14. Eat a balanced diet
Our brains need a varied diet that provides a wide range of nutrients to support optimal brain function.
That includes macronutrients, such as carbs, fats, and proteins, but also more specific micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Aim to eat a balanced diet by loading up on fresh veggies and fruits and reducing caffeine, sugar, processed foods, and alcohol for a laser-focused mind.
15. Get enough sleep
Not getting enough shut-eye will have you making multiple trips to the coffee machine and checking social media every five minutes.
On the other hand, a decent night’s sleep — the CDC recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night — is one of the best ways to arm yourself for a distraction-free day.
How Stack helps you avoid distractions
At Stack, we’re on a mission to minimize digital distractions and help you live more mindfully online.
Here are a few of our most popular features that are helping Stackers stay focused in a distracting world.
Organize your life with Spaces
Separate the personal from the professional and create a dedicated digital space for each project with Spaces. This will help you focus on one thing at a time and avoid getting distracted by unrelated tasks.
Keep important stuff with Saved Cards
Keep everything you need in one place with Saved Cards — whether that’s a file, an app, or your company’s dashboard.
Saved Cards let you group similar items together, which saves you time on searching and reduces the risk of distractions.
Remove clutter with Ghost Cards
Ghost Cards keep your digital space clutter-free by allowing you to open temporary windows, apps, or tabs and close them all in one click.
Find deep concentration with Focus Mode
Focus Mode lets you work without interruption by muting all your notifications so you can check them later. Alternatively, mute notifications on one or more Saved Cards.
Manage your environment to avoid distractions at work
Ultimately, reclaiming your focus and concentration comes down to managing your environment. This includes your body and mind, your physical surroundings, and of course, your digital space.
At Stack, we’re passionate about creating a distraction-free digital environment, which is why we created Stack Next. It’s the world’s first spatial browser designed to help you organize your digital space and minimize distractions so you can work more mindfully.
Request access to Stack Next and discover the beauty of a distraction-free digital world.