By Loren Baker
Getting distracted at work is one of the main deterrents of productivity, and let’s face it: we all encounter numerous distractions, not just in any given day, but in every hour of a given day. This can lead to increased stress from trying to get something accomplished and not feeling like you have enough time, working longer and later hours because the distractions cause you to have to spend more time to get your tasks accomplished and can even anger those around you. I’m sure we all have seen someone who is constantly on their phone or social media during the day, clearly for personal use, which can lead to resentment.
But that doesn’t have to be you!
Use these 5 tips to help block yourself from email and social media distractions while working to help you increase your workplace productivity, and ultimately your success and happiness in the workplace.
If you find yourself slipping into a YouTube or Facebook black hole when you should be updating your quarterly goals, Self-Control may be just what you need. This app (available for Macs only) allows you to turn off selected areas of the web for a specified period of time. Self-Control allows you to block access to incoming and/or outgoing mail servers and websites for a predetermined amount of time.
The best feature of this app is that you can select which services will be blocked. For example, you could set up the application to allow access to the Internet, while blocking email, Twitter and Facebook. If you are a social media manager and need access to Twitter and Facebook, but want to limit yourself from G-Chat during that time, you can configure the program that way.
For those that might feel tempted to try and access blocked sites during the restricted time, once the application timeframe is set, it cannot be undone, not even by restarting the computer. The only way to regain access to the sites you’ve blocked is to wait until the time period expires.
Freedom is a similar program designed for iPhone, iPad, and Mac and Windows computers.
With this program, you can schedule sessions to start automatically on your devices to instantly put you into productivity mode, schedule recurring sessions (set hours/days of week), and schedule sessions in advance. Freedom does allow you to turn off sessions while they are active making it a little more flexible than Self-Control, but it is still a very effective anti-distraction tool.
Self Control is available at no charge, while Freedom is available for $6.99/month, $29/annually, or $119.99 for lifetime use.
Focus Booster is a productivity tool that capitalizes on the Pomodoro time management technique. Essential to the Pomodoro Technique is the notion that taking short, scheduled breaks while working eliminates the “running on fumes” feeling you get when you’ve pushed yourself too hard.
The technique has a simple 4-step process:
- Focus completely on a task for 25 minutes.
- Take a 5 minute break.
- Repeat three more times.
- Take a 20-minute break.
This helps you remain focused and goal-oriented, while eliminating burnout.
Available for both Windows and Mac, this app sets up a timer for you to track the progress of your work day. By logging in time and tasks, you gain total visibility to exactly where you spend your time.
This tool is also great if your business is based on billable hours or mandates time tracking. It allows you to create a detailed dashboard of your time to show exactly where you are spending it and which activities are most profitable. You can then easily export to a CSV file to help create invoices and reports for clients or management.
Focus Booster is available for free (up to 20 sessions per month), or may be purchased for $3/month (up to 200 sessions) or $5/month for unlimited use. There are also yearly discounted rates available.
BreakFree, available for iOS or Android operating systems, incorporates the usage tracking features found in many similar apps such as Focus Booster, but differs in that it breaks down the information into an easy-to-understand addiction score.
It also shows you how often you unlock your phone screen and comprehensively logs your usage for the day. This app is great to help you control your digital lifestyle as it monitors phone and app usage and tracks how addicted you are to your phone and apps. With visually appealing characters, graphs and stats, the app guides you on how you can control phone usage.
The app also provides you with phone management tools such as disabling the Internet, rejecting phone calls and sending auto text messages. You can completely control your habits by scheduling these tools to run on a given day at a given time.
For instance, say you have a presentation to management every Friday morning. You can schedule your phone to disable sound and Internet, so that you are not disturbed by calls and notifications during this time. You could also just turn it off, but I’m sure we have all been in a situation where we forgot and then the phone starts ringing and you have to do the embarrassing struggle to quickly find it and turn it off. With BreakFree, you will never be in that situation again.
For those parents out there, BreakFree can be a great parental control device as well. By installing it on your child’s smartphone you can monitor his/her phone usage, schedule hours when the Internet is turned off for homework time, and make sure they aren’t texting with their friends during family dinner.
BreakFree is available for free in both the Apple and Google Play app stores.
Stay Focused is a free extension for Chrome browser users.
This works in the reverse manner of Self-Control described above. Rather than setting a period of time for which you cannot use the Internet, it allows the user to set a period of time to access their favorite sites. Do you want to limit yourself to an hour of Facebooking a night? Stay focused will help you do exactly that.
LeechBlock is a similar free extension for Firefox users. It allows you to block time wasting sites like some of the tools detailed above, but also allows you to limit time on certain sites like StayFocused.
Users can block sites within fixed time periods (e.g., between 8 and 5), after a time limit (15 minutes in every hour), or with a combination of time periods and time limit (15 minutes in every hour between 8 and 5).
Depending on the browser you use, adding one of these restriction extensions can be a good way to help keep you on track and avoid some of the distractions that may plague your workday or free time. I personally have used StayFocused to block myself from Facebook after 3 minutes of timeline use and not only have I felt more productive, but it’s also eliminated casual Facebook surfing AND eliminated a lot of Timeline negativity in my life.
5. Silence your smartphone and mute your inbox
You don’t always need an app to help you control your life. Sometimes it’s the little things.
A great way to help avoid distractions is to just limit email and text/call noises on both your computer and mobile device. You definitely do not need to check your inbox each and every time a new email comes in, which you will definitely do if you hear a ding every time one comes in. If something is ever truly urgent, people will call. Remember, make your email inbox work for you, and not against you.
Try selecting certain times to check your email or phone each hour. You certainly don’t want to miss anything important from your boss, but you also don’t need to read every string from a group email as they come in. Half of them are usually just “thank you” or not directly applicable to you right? You can read them all at once, and stay on track with your more pressing goals.
Bonus Tip #1 – Have fewer open tabs
One of the easiest ways to avoid distractions without having to disable or mute anything is to have less open tabs on your computer. Set a limit on how many tabs you have open at once, and stick to it.
Bonus Tip #2 – Headphones
Many people think there is a negative stigma associated with wearing headphones at work. Some think it makes you look anti-social, or that you are not engaged with other teammates. However, this is far from the truth. In most corporate environments, there are so many distractions that headphones can actually help you remain focused and stay on track. It’s better to have one song in the background than 10 distinct conversations.
As mobile phones have become more prevalent, so have people wearing headphones. If you do wear them though, try only having 1 ear covered. It will help you avoid distractions, but also allow you to hear someone if they are calling your name. It gives accessibility while still allowing you to avoid distractions. And, if you really need to focus, go ahead and put both in, but try to only do so sporadically. That will let your co-workers know you are in serious mode, and not to bother you. If you wear both all the time, they will not have that point of differentiation.
By using some of these simple tools and tips, you can help keep yourself on track and from keeping the social media and Internet distraction wormholes from creeping up on you and eroding your productivity. And don’t worry; your favorite social sites aren’t going anywhere if you don’t check them for a few hours. There will still be plenty of kids and kittens doing amazing things to look at when you get home.
This article was written by Loren Baker from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.