Each time our phones buzz, beep or make a sound, we get a tiny, but noticeable shot of dopamine that makes us feel excited and hype. This feeling is addictive: who doesn’t like opening their social media platform only to find a slew of shares, comments, and likes? It’s normal to get distracted these days: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email, Whatsapp, and each platform has its own buzz, ding, or ringtone. Sights and sounds stimulate human beings. It’s no wonder we get excited when a notification pops up for a new like or comment. People want to feel like what they’re saying, sharing or doing actually matters. That said, the line between important, and urgent has become a bit muddled. Not every notification requires immediate attention, and the sooner we realize this, the better off we'll be.
There is such a thing as over-stimulation, exhaustion and decision fatigue. It may seem as though by addressing every single buzz, call, or alert that you’re being efficient, when in actuality, it’s more likely distracting you from completing and focusing on important tasks. Urgent and important are not necessarily interchangeable concepts. Urgent, more often than not, is not urgent, but seems pressing because when we get that rush of dopamine and mini-shot of adrenaline our brain goes into problem-solving mood: complete this task now. Interestingly enough, these distractions often interrupt tasks that may be more rigorous, or long-term, but are actually more crucial in the big picture plan. Putting your marketing research plan on hold to respond to Instagram comments are not equal in weight; however, that big red and white button letting you know that there are 10 new notifications stares you down until you finally give in. Being plugged in all day, everyday is exhausting, and what you’ll eventually realize is that by taking time to complete projects, and saying ‘no’ to others (or to distractions), you teach people to respect your time. You show them that your time is valuable, and that you have boundaries put in place. If you’re interested in optimizing productivity and eliminating distractions, here are a few tips and tricks:
Use the Pomodoro Technique
This useful application is a timer that works in customizable increments, although the default and recommended work session is 25 minutes with a 5 minute break. You’ll better manage your time because by using the app, you can measure how many “pomodoros” it takes you to complete a specific task, and plan accordingly.
The counter takes up the entire screen, so that is a step in the right direction! It counts down while the timer is red, and when it’s time for a short break, the screen turns green. Why does this help? While the timer is on, you can’t see your screen. Also, 25 minutes is a reasonable and extremely realistic amount of time to focus. Knowing that there’s a break on the horizon will inspire you to work as efficiently as possible. Work, reward, and repeat.
The iPhone has the option to deactivate and control just how many ways, and where we see our notifications: on the locked screen, with a sound, with a bubble, and in the notification center. If you’re easily distracted by your locked screen lighting up constantly, deactivate this specific feature. My phone is almost always on silent, so I prefer to only use the bubble notifications from apps that are important. Everything else: silenced.
Clean up your home screen
I first got this idea from an article on Medium, and it’s absolutely genius! Basically, you move all of your icons except the bare minimum, to another page. So, when you unlock your phone, you only see one or two apps, for example, whatsapp and email or the call button. In order to see the rest of your apps, you’ll have to scroll to the next page, and just by adding that extra step, I find myself less distracted.
Airplane Mode, it’s not just for traveling
See that tiny airplane icon on your phone? It is magical, friends. This button is the strongest ‘no’ you could ever give. It says: I’m completely and totally unavailable right now, so brb. Putting your phone in airplane mode will turn you into a productivity genius! If it seems a bit too extreme, try turning off your data, that way you can still receive important calls, but won’t get distracted by apps, text messages or YouTube videos about puppies learning how to walk down stairs for the first time.
When dealing with alerts and notifications, ask yourself an honest question: in 1 week, 1 month or 1 year’s time will this still be important? Or can it wait? If we are incessantly over-stimulated 24-hours a day, there’s no rest for our brains, and concentration becomes impossible. Train your brain to approach these moments with calmness and rationality. Would you live in a Vegas casino 24/7? No! You’d go mad with all the lights flashing, and constant sounds going off. Lastly, remind yourself that if it’s not important to the big picture, waiting a day or two to answer an email or respond to a comment may be more beneficial in the long run.
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful life partner. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.