The fight for our attention has never been more intense.
With the universe of distraction (read: internet) being one click away at any given moment, getting things done has become a complex challenge. Notifications, banner ads, auto-play videos, pop-ups—you name it—the flood of information on the internet is hard to comprehend (and just as hard to ignore). It’s no wonder most of us have difficulty concentrating.
The nature of technology, however, is ambivalent. Technology itself is neither black nor white; technology can be either a cause or a cure for today’s distraction epidemic. How, you ask? It’s surprisingly simple.
It turns out, there are multiple apps, browser extension, programs, and even hardware products designed to help us switch from distraction to productivity. Efficient and easy-to-use, these anti-distraction tools will save you a lot of time and energy.
Headspace or Tide Apps
Have you ever noticed that some people are more easily distracted than others? It all comes down to one’s ability to be fully present in the moment. The more mindful you are, the less power distractions have over you. Fortunately, mindfulness is a skill that can be trained with meditation.
With apps like Headspace and Tide, learning to meditate becomes easy and even fun.
Headspace is one of the most popular apps for guided meditation. Available for iOS and Android users, it helps you form a habit of daily meditation, tracks your progress, sends you daily tips on focus, meditation, and related topics.
Tide is another app to help you master the art of meditation. This app is for those who find guided meditation distractive in their own right. If the calm voice telling to focus on your breathing makes you nervous, Tide would be a better choice for you. All you need is to set the time of focus, anything from 5 minutes to 2 hours, pick the sound theme you like (rain, forest sounds, cafe, etc.) and press start. By the end of your indicated focus time, your phone will vibrate. What makes it great is that you can use it for both focus and meditation.
Noise is commonly considered one of the biggest sources of distraction. What’s more, it is the enemy of mental peace, productivity, and health. Combine these facts together and you will have no troubles understanding the hype around noise-canceling headphones.
What makes such headphones different from regular ones is that they offer both passive and active noise reduction. Passive noise reduction is what you get by using any headphones. You put them on and, naturally, this results in some level of noise reduction.
The true magic happens when active noise-canceling headphones come into play. Apart from being made of sound-absorbing materials, such headphones create sound waves of their own. These headphones mimic the original sound wave with the same amplitude but with a 180-degree inverted phase. When these two opposite waves meet, they cancel each other out.
Most of popular brands, including Sony, Philips, Samsung, and Sennheiser offer noise-canceling headphones. If you are looking for something entirely new, take a look at Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II. Experts claim these are the best noise-canceling headphones on the market.
SelfControl or AntiSocial Apps
As you might have learned from our report on the state of distraction, social media is a major source of distraction for most of people. It is hard to believe but the average internet user wastes 5 years and 4 months of a lifetime on social media! Given this, it comes as no surprise the popularity of SelfControl and AntiSocial apps.
These apps have not yet become mainstream, but it is just a question of time.
SelfControl app for iOS allows you to compose a blacklist of websites you believe distract you the most and indicate the period of focus time you need. The app will block access to these websites. Alternatively, you can create a whitelist of websites and the app will allow you to access only these websites. What makes SelfControl cool (and scary at the same time) is that once activated, you cannot stop it without rebooting your computer.
Not an iOS user? No worries. There is a great solution for Android and Windows. Compared to SelfControl app, this one takes things one step further by blocking internet access altogether when you feel that blocking certain websites won’t be enough. This app is called AntiSocial, and it covers multiple devices and blocks both websites and apps.
Pomodoro (App or Hardware)
If you’ve ever asked Google “How to boost productivity”, chances are good you’ve heard of Pomodoro. Originally developed in the 1980s, this time management technique has become especially popular in the last decade. The logic is simple: you need to work for 25 minutes and take 5-minute breaks between each working interval.
Although you don’t need specific gadgets or apps to benefit from this technique (a regular timer will do the job just great), using one of the Pomodoro Timer apps or a physical Pomodoro timer can make the process more fun.
If you doubt such a simple technique can help you remove distraction and improve productivity, remember it is a scientifically-backed time management technique that has proven itself successful.
If you naively believe that social network and smartphone addiction is something that happens to everyone but you, you are far from alone. Most people do not realize how much time they spend on social media until they are shown the stats. Need data to admit you’re addicted? Well, this is exactly what the RescueTime tool was designed to do.
The idea behind RescueTime is simple. It is based on the assumption that once people start keeping an honest account of their online behavior, they can easily detect time-sucking places and finally do something about it. Given this, the app tracks your online history and tracks how many minutes you spend on each app or website.
It might be truly eye-opening, if not shocking, to realize you waste more than 2 hours of your working time on Facebook or kill an hour and a half of your evening watching meaningless Instagram stories.
If it is uncontrolled online shopping that stands between you and productivity (productivity and wise budgeting, actually), a quality ad blocking solution is exactly what you need.
These days, online ads are numerous and aggressive. Modern ads are designed to distract and seem to deliver on their job with much success. Bright, large, and auto-playing, modern online ads are pure annoyance. They distract us from what is important (at the very least) and force us to spend time and money on things we don’t need (at the worst).
The good news is that an ad-free internet experience is no longer a dream.
With StopAd, you can forget about disturbing ads of all kinds, whether it be banner ads, pop-ups, autoplay videos, etc. What makes StopAd great is that it works on all devices, desktop and online, iOS and Android, and doesn’t require multiple downloads on each of your devices. As a bonus, it protects you from identity thieves, online scams, and phishing.
The Final Thought on Distraction
If distraction were a virus, the internet would be the perfect environment for it to flourish. In nearly all the cases, being online and staying focused are mutually exclusive.
In any given moment, there are dozens of messages vying for our attention in the form of videos, banners, pop-ups, or sponsored posts. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder distraction is considered a new epidemic.
Fortunately, we have the resources to fight back. Practicing mindfulness, improving willpower, and using tools listed in this article will help you resist distractions and prevent them from hampering your productivity.