Working online has drawbacks: Twitter conversations, cat videos, and BuzzFeed.
How do we deal with this situation?
Patience, practice, and these seven tips. (The Twitter conversations, cat videos, and BuzzFeed will still be there when you take breaks and wrap up the workday. I promise.)
4 anti-distraction tips
These tips may not work for everyone, but don’t let that disclaimer be your excuse for not giving them a try:
Check email twice a day.
The more projects I take on, the more emails I get. Funny how that works, right? Though some are important, virtually none require immediate attention. Instead of reading and responding to emails all day, why not try Tim Ferriss’s 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. email-check-and-response method?
A little white noise goes a long way. Whether you’re working in a busy coffee shop or in a cubicle next to a chatty co-worker (who could benefit from this article), white noise + headphones = a winning combination.
We all think we’re good at multitasking. But we’re not really—not when it comes to mentally demanding, brain-power-consuming activities like our work. When you’re “involved” in social media, writing, and your email, you’re not really involved in any single task. So, stop multitasking, and focus on one project/task at a time when working online.
Schedule your distractions
Distraction isn’t totally evil. We all need a little distraction to avoid going crazy, but that time should be scheduled. Maybe you need a 10-minute break every hour, maybe a half-hour break in the morning and one in the afternoon. When you schedule your “distraction time,” it won’t have nearly the same destructive impact on your productivity.
3 tools to eliminate distractions
Good tips, but what do they look like in practice? Use these online distraction-fighting tools (all of which are free):
Self-Control is the granddaddy of all block-access tools. You download the app, tell it what sites you don’t want access to (and for how long), and start the timer. Once you’ve started the timer, you cannot use that website.
The reason this app is really impressive? Even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you’re still under its power. (Of course, you can always open another browser, but c’mon, Self-Control can’t save you from yourself.) Here are two Windows versions that Self-Control recommends.
Focus booster/Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo breaks time into 25-minute intervals. The idea is that you work for 25 minutes (a “pomodoro”) and then take a five-minute break. Once every four pomodoros, you break for 15-20 minutes.
Focus Booster is a free app that helps you accomplish this goal.
Single application mode
Mac users used to have a helpful app called Think that would blur everything on the screen except the one app they were working with. It seems the developer’s website and the app have both disappeared.
Fortunately, there’s an even better alternative: Single Application Mode. With a snippet of code (see the link), you can make everything on your screen disappear (apps, background, icons, etc.) except the one application you’re working in.
What are some of your favorite apps for eliminating distractions and boosting productivity while working online? Share them in the comments section below.
Ben Richardson is a freelance writer, poet and blogger in Nashville, Tenn. A version of this article originally appeared on ContentEqualsMoney.