5 Strategies for Limiting Technological Distractions and Increasing Productivity

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As many of you know, I am officially in the dissertation-writing phase of my PhD program. Writing is such an intimidating task and like most, it’s easy to want to run away from it. Technology is awesome in so many ways but we often use it as a form of distraction when we actually need to get things done. As I’m I beginning to buckle down for the rest of my PhD ride, I’ve been using these tricks to stay focused during my work sessions. 

  1. Turn your phone over: If you must have your phone out for whatever reason, turn it so that the screen-side is down. This way, you’re not constantly glancing over to see if any messages are popping up. And if messages do pop-up, the notification won’t distract you from what you’re doing in that moment. 
  2. Out of sight, out of mind: If you don’t need your phone, take the first suggestion a step further and put your phone away all together. I find that when I can’t physically see my phone, it’s easier for me to forget about it all together. 
  3. Disable message notifications on your computer: This tip has been a HUGE game changer for me. About a month ago, I decided to disable iMessage on my laptop so that I could only text from my phone and it’s been amazing for helping me stay focused. This tip combined with number 1 or 2 has really helped me minimize impromptu texting sessions to avoid working. I would also recommend adjusting your notification settings so that you don’t get banner notifications on your devices. You can always check for your messages but it’s nice not to have things popping up on the screen when you’re trying to focus on one particular task. 
  4. Make use of the do not disturb feature on your phone: This is particularly helpful for group chats. We all get roped into them but there is nothing worse than trying to get something important done and having messages from 8 different people constantly blowing up your phone. Turn on do not disturb and then catch up on the chat when you’re on a break. 
  5. Forest app: Forest is an app that encourages you to focus by preventing you from using your phone for a selected period of time. Each time you set your Forest timer, you plant a virtual seed. If you try to exit the Forest screen to use another app/function on your phone, the app gives you 5 seconds to return to the screen or else your tree dies. It might sound silly – who cares if a fake tree dies, right? But you might be amazed at how invested you become in growing your forest. As someone who works well with intervals/Pomodoro technique, this app has been awesome. Not only does it conveniently time my work intervals but Forest also provides a visual representation of the work that I’ve done on any given day in the form of a virtual forest. Amazing.

What tricks do you use to minimize distractions when you’re trying to get things done? I would love to hear!


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