Welcome to the master guide to stop distraction!
If you’ve been following us throughout March and April, you know how serious the problem of distraction is and what to do to bring more focus and concentration into your life. If you still don’t, it’s time to fix that.
Below is the selection of best insights and outputs we’ve collected during the #DistractionDetox marathon. Three-two-one, are you ready to stop distraction and boost your productivity?
The Global Distraction Problem In A Nutshell
Even if you don’t know much about the science of focus and attention, you have most certainly heard about the famous goldfish study. Yep, the one where a group of scientists from Canada proved that a modern human can stay focused for only 8 continuous seconds, which equals the attention span of a goldfish.
According to research, the average modern human can only stay focused for 8 continuous seconds—the same attention span as a goldfish.
Although this research has been massively criticized, it brings up an important issue: the majority of modern people have fallen victim to distraction (take this quiz to find out whether or not you’re one of them).
We’ve researched the topic as thoroughly as we could and prepared a report on global distraction crises. If interested, you can read it in full, view as an infographic, or enjoy the quick summary below:
If you work in an office, your average attention span is about 11 minutes. If you work online, you can only stay focused on one element of a screen for 40 seconds. Once distracted, you need around 25 minutes to get back to the state of deep focus. On a corporate level, this translates into a $650 billion loss for American companies, annually. On a personal level, it means living chronically distracted lives.
Distractibility By Profession
Interestingly, what we do for a living affects our ability to stop distraction. We ran an experiment to help us better understand how people react to various distractions. The StopAd Distraction Experiment showed that those working in HR are the most vulnerable to distraction among all—maybe because we are most distracted by engaging with other people and HR professionals are more likely to tune-in to others in the company.
Distractibility By Age
Another interesting finding is that age matters, too.
As it turned out during our in-house experiment, we’re more distraction-proof when we’re young. Participants under 25 demonstrated the best results of all participants when completing tasks distracted.
Distractibility, Food, and Drink
We have some good news for foodies and coffee addicts! It looks like having a delicious breakfast and drinking caffeinated beverages is associated with an improved ability to stop distraction. Let’s raise a cup of cappuccino to better focus!
Distractibility and Sleep
If you’re a fan of a good night’s sleep and never miss a chance to take a nap, great choice! Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is good for your concentration and performance. As our research showed, sleep quality is linked to our ability to focus and stop distraction.
So, we’re all pretty distracted. Now what?
The Top 3 Approaches To Dealing With Distraction
The worst part about distractions is that they are addictive. Since distraction means novelty, and novelty is associated with a spike in pleasure-and-reward neurochemical dopamine, the more distraction we get, the more of it we crave. That’s the vicious cycle of distraction.
After weeks of investigation that involved online research, interviews with experts, and even some real life experiments inside our company. From what we’ve learned, you can deal with your distraction problem on 3 different levels: working on your lifestyle and habits, relying on distraction-killing tools, and improving your willpower.
Let’s discuss each one in detail.
It’s true that today’s realities do shoulder some of the blame for the global attention crisis. It is just as true that we should all take some responsibility, too.
In most cases, we are being distracted because we allow distraction to affect us. Instead of making some effort to stay focused, we let our attention jump from one thing to another. If this sounds familiar, consider these lifestyle changes.
Create your own distraction-free morning routine. If checking email and scrolling Instagram is what you do first thing in the morning, you absolutely need a new morning routine. Your morning lays the foundation for the entire day, so don’t let distractions take over as soon as you wake up. Ideally, start your morning slowly. Do some exercise (even a 10-minute workout or stretch-session can make a difference), take a shower, make yourself a good breakfast, spend some time reading, journaling, or meditating depending on what you prefer. Your goal should be this: start your day slowly and aim not to let distractions break into your day when it’s just begun.
Move as many distractions as possible out of your sight. Distractions are a lot like chocolate cookies. When there is one in front of you, it becomes almost impossible to resist. Hide the morsel somewhere and half the battle is won. If you know you have an important task at hand or there is something you absolutely need to focus on, try to remove all possible sources of distraction.
Insider’s Tip: Gadgets are the most effective distractions, so make sure to remove them first.
Boost your mindfulness. We know, meditation and mindfulness are some of the biggest buzzwords these days. Don’t let it fool you, though. When you are mindful, you are able to recognize the moment of distraction right when it occurs, before your concentration is lost. This powerful mind tool can work wonders on your level of concentration. The best part is that mindfulness is a weapon that’s always with you.
Can you believe that one of the greatest weapons against distraction is hidden within you? It’s your willpower–the ability to resist short-term temptations (read: distractions) to meet long-term goals. The stronger willpower you have, the harder it is for distractions to get to you.
If you can’t boast great willpower right now, don’t despair. As it turns out, willpower is a muscle you can train. With some effort and consistency on your part, you’ll be able to boost your self-discipline.
Here’s what you can do to strengthen your willpower:
Exercise on a regular basis. Sport makes a great willpower training tool. Not only does it require discipline and consistency (these two are essential components of willpower), but it also stimulates the release of endorphins—chemicals that make you feel happy and good about yourself. Those endorphins serve as a natural reward for your efforts.
Set goals, break them down to micro-goals. When you feel yourself progressing, it becomes a lot easier to stay on track. That’s why you should aim for taking micro-steps and reward yourself with each micro-victory you achieve. A little gamification works wonders.
Develop your personal reward system. Rewarding yourself is important. It’s a way of telling your brain that all the efforts and challenges are worth it. The emotions we feel when rewarded are what refills our willpower and prevents it from becoming too depleted.
Set only realistic goals. This one really takes some practice. As you work on strengthening your willpower, it is crucial to always set goals that are realistic. Willpower has a lot to do with your self-esteem and how you generally feel about yourself. When you set impossible-to-achieve goals, you lose the game before you even start. This can make you think of yourself as a failure (not a helpful mindset to boost willpower.)
Making lifestyle changes or training your willpower muscle takes time, we know that. If your performance suffers because of distraction and all you need is a quick fix, this approach is just for you.
Luckily, there are lots of distraction-killing apps and gadgets out there—from hardware focus timers and noise-canceling headphones to email managers and apps blocking your access to social networks.
Whatever your biggest source of distraction is, you can be sure there is a tool designed specifically for your problem. Having doubts that it’s true? Trust us, we’ve researched the problem and made a list of best distraction-killing tools on the market.
In case you’re wondering, our personal favorites are the following:
Anti-Social App. Social media sites are the biggest problem for most of us. If you understand that social networks distract you the most and still can’t find enough willpower to log out, try Anti-Social. It’s a godsend for all social media addicts. This app can block access to any social network of your choice for a set period of time, so you can give you full attention to the task at hand.
Noise-Cancelling Headphones. Have you ever been forced to put your headphones on because of too much noise? You are far from alone. Fortunately, now we have headphones designed to actively cancel noise. Instead of just playing louder sound than you already have around, these headphones cancel all outside noises before they reach your ear, with the exception of the sounds you choose to play directly from the headphones.
Pomodoro Timer Apps. Old but gold. This time management technique works wonders for those who dare to try it. The logic is simple: you work for 25 minutes, then you take a 5-minute break, and then you get back to work for another 25 minutes. Not only does this approach keep you organized, but it also prevents your brain from getting tired. Small breaks lead to big changes. There are dozens of Pomodoro Timer apps and online services. Hop on Google and pick the one you like best.
How To Be Distraction-Proof: The Final Word
Being part of the modern world comes with some good and some bad things. One of the bad is having to resist diverse distractions constantly.
If you want to lead a life of mindfulness and focus, you’ll have to put in some effort. You’ll most certainly need to work on your willpower and make some significant lifestyle changes. Maybe you’ll even need to rely on distraction-killing gadgets and apps for a start–just to help you break the vicious cycle of distraction and start building a new habit. Whatever approach your decide to follow, remember that true, lasting changes never happen overnight. Take it slow, one step at a time, and one day you’ll be able to call yourself a distraction-proof person.