Block Distractions Now! Why is it Extra Hard to Focus Online?

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Where does one even start to block distractions present online? There are a lot of distractions in life but the distractions are only amplified when it comes to the online world.

We’ve all been there where we need to use our laptop, tablet, or our mobile phone to learn something but then the next moment we’re binge-watching a show on Netflix. We could be on YouTube to watch tutorial videos but we end up watching a lot of late-night television clips.

Learning things especially in electronic gadgets such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones is rather hard. This happens primarily because the very tools we are using for our learning also distract us at the same time. Have you ever turned on your laptop to get something done and then you realize that you wasted 5 hours on social media itself and it finally dawns on you what you turned on your laptop for?

Why does this happen? What’s wrong with us? Why are we hell-bent on making our lives harder than it needs to be. Are we all secretly a masochist?

Delayed Gratification

Well, there are some psychological reasons behind it. One of the reasons being the reward attached to the task is rather delayed. If you turned on your laptop to write a college assignment, the reward associated with that assignment i.e. the marks that you’ll get for that assignment is way out in the future. After watching a funny five-minute video on YouTube or posting a photo on social media, you get your reward right there and then.

Social Media

It also doesn’t help that social media is designed to keep you engaged all the time. They use a psychological trick called positive intermittent reward schedule which keeps you hooked to social media like a drug addict on crack.

So what can we do? Are we all doomed to never finish anything on time? Are we all doomed to not get anything done in life? Or, is there an answer to all this madness?

Ego Depletion

Perhaps, we could rely on our motivation and self-control and do what Shia Laboufe says and “Just do it”. But, it quite doesn’t work. Does it?

Motivation is a finite resource. If we usee too much motivation and self-control for a task then it will only get lower for other tasks throughout the day. This phenomenon is also called ego depletion. There was this experiment where there were two groups of participants. In one group, a jar of chocolates was kept nearby the participants and in another group, another jar of chocolates was kept far away from the participants to test how much self-control they can exhibit. Obviously, the group that had the jar of chocolates nearby ate the chocolates first and ate more chocolates. But then for the second part of the experiment, the participants were taken into another room where they had a big box of ice cream and they were told that they can eat as much ice cream as they want to. The group that exhibited more self-control in the first part of the experiment was also the one that ate more ice cream in the second. It clearly demonstrates that motivation and self-control is a finite resource that can be used up.

What now?

If motivation doesn’t work then what can we do?

If-then plan

We can create an if-then plan. An example of this could me “If I open my computer then I’ll write my assignment for first 30 minutes.”

But then don’t we need motivation for that too?

Chunking, breaks and, rewards

We can chunk i.e. breakdown a big task into smaller sub-components. We can take some break in between the completion of those subtasks. And we can reward ourselves once we complete those subtasks. For eg. If the assignment consists of 10 question then we can break it down into 2 question per session.

This will ensure that our gratification is not delayed but rather comes quickly. Now the reward can be something as simple as a pat in the back, chocolate, or 5-10 minutes of social media break.

But …

I know that you’re thinking that this won’t work and you will again be sucked into depths of social media. And, you’re right.

So what can we to actually block distractions?

It’s very smart to use apps, extensions, and plugins to block you from using certain sites and applications for a set amount of time.
You could use an application that asks you why you opened your screen every time you open it.

Let’s explore some of these applications that will help us block distractions.

Freedom.to

Used by writers, editors, software developers, researchers, and students alike, Freedom.to is a multi-platform solution to block distractions. It works on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chromebook, and Linux. It’s also available as a Google Chrome extension.

You can block the entire internet, certain websites, block everything except a few websites. You can change your browsing habit with their browser extension and more.

Mindful Browsing

This free and open-source Chrome extension will let you set reminders to remind you what you should be doing instead at any given moment.

You can take breaks and unblock some social media for a while and let the reminder kick in once you’re past the set time limit.

Dewo

Based on the concept of “Deep Work”, Dewo is an AI tool and personal assistant that blocks notifications by default. Apart from that, it can intelligently reschedule your calendar events, analyze your work, and advises you on how to work better and more.

Cold Turkey

Once you block something in cold turkey, you cannot unblock it until the specified time. It’s harder to cheat it. When you’re low on willpower, it’s something to consider.

Actuflow

This mobile app was designed to reduce your screen time and help you follow a digital minimalist lifestyle. The app will ask you the reason for unlocking your phone so that you can both keep track of your smartphone unlocking habit and be reminded of what you unlocked your phone for.

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