With all the distractions we face in each moment, it’s more important than ever to learn how to stay in the present moment as much as possible, especially when we need to get things done. Keep reading to find out my favorite hacks for increasing productivity and remaining present throughout your day.
The distraction epidemic – and why it matters
We hear about the “distraction epidemic” everyday — our attention spans are shorter, our productivity is suffering, and it feels like our ability to be present is more and more fleeting. While mindfulness and meditation (which I talk about here) is one very important way to combat our overloaded brains, sometimes we just need to set boundaries with ourselves, figure out what is distracting us, and make immediate changes.
For most if not all of us, I have one guess for what our greatest distractions are – our phones and social media, which send us CONSTANT dopamine hits that have been engineered to make us constantly crave them. And we think we can multitask. But, as my fiance Steve said to me the other day while I was online shopping as he was telling me about his day (and I needed the reminder), “I know you’re good at multitasking, but do you have to? It doesn’t feel like you’re really listening to what I’m saying.”
And the truth is, he’s right (as much as I oftentimes hate admitting it – ha). Multitasking is sometimes necessary, I get it, but it’s not helpful if we’re not being present with our loved ones. It’s not helpful if we can’t relax because we’re constantly thinking about other things (hello, guilty). I noticed that I was most likely to multitask or scroll through social media on my phone during my nightly TV time with Steve, right before bed, and right when I woke up in the morning. So, I made a couple of changes recently that have really helped me be more present and less distracted not only during those times but throughout my entire day.
So, here are my five top “productivity hacks,” as Steve likes to call them:
Set “off hours” for checking social media
Intermittent fasting (the weight loss concept where you eat for 8 hours and fast for 16) is becoming hugely popular, but I recently realized this could work with social media, too. Because I noticed I got mostly distracted at night and in the morning (and these times will be different for everyone), I decided that I would ban myself from checking social media from the hours of 8pm until noon or so the next day.
Not only do I feel SO much freer, I enjoy having a bunch of notifications to read the next day since I’ve spent so much time away rather than constantly checking for those likes and comments. So, try this yourself: pick a window of hours (even a couple of hours per day) that you block yourself from checking social media and see how it feels. Increase or decrease the time as needed!
BONUS TIP: I put my phone in the other room while I’m watching TV so I’m not tempted to accidentally pick it up to check social media. This way I have to make a concerted effort to go get my phone and it’s much easier to follow the break times I’ve set.
Move your most-used apps
Notice the apps you use the most (for me it’s instagram, hands down), and move the app to a different place on your home screen, move it to the second screen, or delete it altogether. This will minimize the chance of you automatically opening it because you know where it is on your phone. This hack helps if I’m trying to be more mindful about not opening an app at a certain time of the day, but I don’t need to fully block myself from it altogether.
Download the Self-Control App
For computers, use the Self-Control App for Mac or the Self-Control Chrome extension for Windows. These will block you from opening certain websites for certain periods of time. I used to always turn this on when I would write papers so I didn’t mindlessly open Facebook every five minutes and waste an hour looking at photos of someone I haven’t seen since high school.
Manage your notifications
Let’s talk notifications — THE biggest reason that we constantly reach for our phones. Turn them off! I don’t have any app badge notifications on (those annoying little red numbers at the top corner of the app that BEG you to click on them), and I only have banners on for texts. It really helps to turn off as many notifications as you can so you don’t have the urge to automatically clear them.
If you have an app on your computer dock, turn off the app badge notifications there as well. Lastly, I put all my texts on silent and only calls will vibrate, because I know sometimes it’s important to hear when you’re getting a call, but I noticed I was getting so distracted with vibrating texts that I turned them off altogether. I still get banners so I can see texts when on the home screen, and it’s been fine.
Use an old-fashioned pen and paper
If you use your phone to make lists and keep reminders like I do, during times where you want to focus or be present, write down your notes on paper so you don’t reach for your phone. Because what tends to happen is we open our phone down to write something down, get distracted by social media, and after a few minutes we forgot that we originally opened our phone to write something down.
I hope those hacks help you as much as they’ve helped me! Here’s hoping for a more present and productive rest of your week!
If you try any of these or already utilize any of these, let me know how they work (or don’t work) for you. Or if you have any productivity hacks you love, let me know in the comments!