I have this problem mostly at work. When I’m trying to work on something like scheduling, my Outlook pop-up keeps reminding me I have a new email. What do I do? I look at the message — even though I’m in the middle of something. Then my office phone rings, or someone comes into my office needing an answer to a question, then my iPhone goes off with texts from my Twitter account, my personal email also buzzes on my iPhone, and…I…can’t…ignore…it. There was one day when my theme song was “Too Much Information” by the Police, and even that was understating things.
The problem about getting information like emails and texts is that they often demand an immediate response. We have voicemail so we can get to a call when it’s convenient for us, but sometimes I forget to return calls. Email is kind of like slipping a note under your office door. You can respond to the note when it’s good for you, but if you don’t in a timely manner, it’s perceived as rude that it took you two days to reply. Texts? Those are attention magnets. If you don’t respond to a text right away, you’re clearly dead or unconscious.
At home, I have the program Freedom that’s highlighted in the video, and have used it a couple of times. It does help in focusing attention on the project that’s in front of you, but sometimes if I’m working on a project that requires Internet access, I’m pretty much out of luck unless I want to restart my computer.
Anyway, I guess it all comes down to this: a computer program can minimize online distractions, but how do you minimize distractions at work? So far, the best way is to shut the door, turn off your iPhone, close your email and put your desk phone on “Do Not Disturb.” Pretty low tech solutions for a high tech world, huh.