5 Ways to Defend Yourself Against Distraction

With the world as connected and advanced as it is, the battle against distraction is raging on. Check out this post for five ways to defend yourself from distractions to get more done.

It’s a brand new work day and you already have tons to do. As you hurriedly sit down at your computer, you start thinking about your action items for the day. You’re just about to get started when your phone rings. An email notification pops up. Someone walks into your office. Twitter is calling your name. Without realizing it, suddenly you find yourself in the middle of lunchtime, and your big ticket items? Not quite done.

If this sounds familiar, you’re far from alone. With the world as connected and advanced as it is, the battle against distraction is a growing fight. As an online business owner, the internet is both your lifeblood and your worst enemy in terms of focus.

To help you get more done, here are five tips on building up your defense against distraction:


1. Turn off notifications

Whether it’s email, social media or little apps on mobile devices, nearly everything comes with notifications these days. The notifications scream, “Look at me now!”, and, let’s be honest, they often sound way more enticing than what you’re supposed to be working on. Though sometimes helpful, notifications tend to do more harm than good by frequently interrupting your thought process. By turning off notifications, you’re giving yourself room to focus.

“But I can’t turn off my notifications,” you may protest. “What if something important comes up?” If you can’t bring yourself to turn off notifications, don’t let yourself jump on every little thing as it pops up. Instead, make a habit of taking note of things, saving them for later and returning your focus to the task at hand. It won’t hurt anyone if you wait a while before answering the holiday decorations survey or writing a response to that email.


2. Find a good workspace (or clean up your current one)

Whether it’s an unwashed mug in the corner, papers strewn about in no particular order or your favorite little trinket knocked over on its side, clutter can be incredibly distracting. Often times, this mess serves as a visual reminder of how overwhelmed you may be feeling and other little tasks you could easily redirect your attention to. Thus, one way to defend against distraction is to simply clear off your workspace, leaving only as much as you need to function.

But what if that’s significantly easier said than done? If your workspace needs a little more help than you have the time to give, the act of clearing it off can be a huge distraction on its own. So if you need to get something done in a pinch, but your workspace is chaos, try grabbing your laptop, tablet or other mobile device and hot-desk it. That is, work in a space other than your desk, like a quiet booth in a coffee shop or a remote corner of your house. So long as clutter is at a minimum, a change of locale can help boost your focus.


3. Streamline your desktop

Much like how physical clutter can be a bane to your focus, too many tabs or programs crowding out your computer screen can be similarly detrimental. When you have so many things open, it’s easy to find yourself switching from task to task, ultimately making headway in none. Furthermore, it becomes significantly more difficult to avoid feeling overwhelmed or stressed out when everything on your to-do list is staring you in the face.

Try living “full screen” instead. Focus on one task and let it take up the entirety of your attention by letting it take up your entire screen. For writing, minimalist word processors like OmmWriter, WriteRoom and Scrivener do this well. For general browsing on the web, most browsers have a full screen option that will hide all the tabs. (In both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, for example, simply press F11 to toggle in and out of full screen mode.)


4. Schedule distraction

Sometimes the best way to fight distraction is to let it win a little bit. We’re humans and not robots, after all. Our brains aren’t wired to focus perfectly on a task for hours and hours on end. Similar to how they use controlled fires in forests to get rid of debris and help certain pine trees reproduce, scheduled distraction helps you reenergize and keep the flow of ideas going without it getting out of hand.

Scheduled distraction also gives the added benefit of relaxing your mind. Although some people work well under pressure, rarely is sweating and furiously typing and backspacing anyone’s ideal style of getting things done. When your mind is at ease, you have better control over your thoughts and can open the door for bigger ideas to pop up.


5. Send physical cues

Distraction may be largely mental, but you have the option of physically blocking it out. Just like physically changing your location can help you get on-task, sending out physical cues that you’re busy decreases the likelihood of others’ interrupting you.

One way to physically make yourself unavailable to distraction is put on a pair of headphones. Studies have shown that ambient noise and certain kinds of music can actually help workers phase out little distractions. And even if you’re not person who likes music or white noise, headphones are basically the universal sign to others that you’re in the middle of something. You could also try a “Do Not Disturb” sign, which will not only serve as a visual reminder that you’re in the zone, but can also let others around you know you need this time to focus.


The fight against the forces of distraction is ongoing, but with these tips in mind, you can better prepare yourself for any surprise attacks. Have your own tips on defending against distraction? Leave them in the comments below!

Happy selling!
-Gracelyn Tan, Volusion


Gracelyn was a Communications Specialist at Volusion. She has a BA in English and Philosophy from Rice University, and when not reading or writing, she's dancing, meeting new people or winning staring contests with her cat.

10 Responses to “5 Ways to Defend Yourself Against Distraction”

  1. Lloyd Adams

    Thanks for this tips article. I read that we have limited attention span, and you should also try the ‘Pomodoro Technique’. It’s a 25 minute timer that goes 25 on 5 off, then on the 2 hour mark, you get a 20 minute break. It will break up the Menotti in your work.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Lizaveta

    Nice advice!
    I loved (and tested) the “schedule distraction” one: promised myself to check tumblr at 6 and was surprised that all the super important information it gives just doesn’t go anywhere. Why do I even procrastinate there?

    If you’re interested, here’s a tip of mine:
    I’m a freelancer and a wife of an entrepreneur, so mornings begin at 10 with feeding the husband, then grocery shopping, then cleaning the apartment — the bad scenario. The trick is to get up a couple of hours earlier and — sleepy, undressed, dirty, hungry and all — immediately go to the computer and start working. It sets the mood for the whole day. And you still have all the housework done, when the husband wakes up and asks for food)

    Also, when you’re in a zeitnot, it might be useful to set a timer for a circuit training regime (this one is very primitive http://www.speedbagforum.com/timer.html): 3 sets of 40 minutes work and 10 minutes rest (go away from the computer!). I still haven’t figured out what to do after these 3 sets, but it really makes you work for at least these 120 minutes.

    Thanks again for the article!

  3. Z

    If you have a mac you should download the app SelfControl! Saved my life.

    • Gracelyn T.

      Hi, Z. Nice tip! I actually use a PC, so I was totally in the dark about that app. Thanks for sharing and thanks for reading! -Gracelyn T.

  4. Andrew

    Clicked on a link to this article from our admin dashboard, instead of doing what I was meant to do… Case proved. 🙂

    • Gracelyn T.

      Hi, Andrew. I know, it’s kind of ironic that my post is hawking a solution while possibly contributing to the problem as well…but hey! My intentions were good. 🙂 Thanks for reading! -Gracelyn T.

  5. Dante Zakhidov

    These are great tips. Thank you so much

    • Gracelyn T.

      Hi, Dante. Very glad they could help you out. Thanks for reading! -Gracelyn T.

  6. Ty

    Ugh, so distracted, twitter calling my name. Glad I stumbled across and read this though, very handy =D I especially like the bit about turning off your phone notifications, that is something I was considering for a while and this article confirmed, IT HELPS!

    • Gracelyn T.

      Hi, Ty. Twitter can’t enough of us, huh? I’m glad my article could help! What I enjoy most about having all my notifications turned off is whenever I do decide to check whatever it is I’m checking (phone, social media, email), I’m dealing with things solely on my terms. Helps reduce the stressed out feeling. Also, it’s like a fun little surprise to see what’s waiting!

      Thanks for reading! -Gracelyn T.


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