“Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus.” — Ann Voskamp
Our world has become a constant feed of information, noise, and entertainment. Our phones live not just in our pockets, but in front of our eyes. The influence of the Internet and its constant stream of information is accessible from nearly corner of our world. Breaking news breaks into our day at breakneck speed. And we are fed messages relentlessly from advertisements on nearly every flat surface. Each distraction enters our mind with one goal: Gain control of our attention and resources.
As a result, we live distracted lives and our ability to focus, create, and accomplish suffers significantly. It is increasingly clear that distractions are not going away on their own. Instead, the responsibility is ours to live attentive, intentional lives in a world of distraction. This is a goal we must continue to seek.
To live life with less distraction, consider implementing one or more of these 10 unconventional habits:
1. Turn off smart phone notifications. Our smart phones have quickly become one of the greatest sources of distraction in our lives. The average person now touches their mobile phone 2,617 times every day.
To limit the distractive nature of your smart phone, turn off all nonessential notifications (Email, Facebook, Twitter, Games, etc.) as a default setting. As a result, you will be able to check your apps on your schedule at appropriate times throughout the day.
2. Read/Answer email only twice each day. When we keep our email client open all day, we surrender our attention to the most recent bidder rather than the most important. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we understand why the habit of checking email only twice/day is promoted over and over again by some of the most productive people in our world today (Michael Hyatt, Scott Belsky, Leo Babauta).
Schedule your email processing. You will feel the benefits immediately as the habit instantly limits incoming distraction.
3. Complete 1-2 minute projects immediately. Our lives and minds are often cluttered and distracted by the many unfinished projects around us (unanswered email, household chores, financial responsibilities). Fortunately, many of these projects can be completed in far less time than we think. To live with less distraction, if a project can be completed in less than 2 minutes, adopt a “one-minute-rule” mentality.
4. Remove physical clutter. Unnecessary clutter is a significant form of visual distraction. Consider this: everything in our eyesight subtly pulls at our attention at least a little. And the more we remove, the less visual stress and distraction we experience. Clear your desk, your walls, your counters, and your home of unneeded possessions. You’ll be surprised at your newfound ability to focus.
5. Clear visible, distracting digital clutter. Just like physical clutter distracts our attention, digital clutter accomplishes the same. Desktop icons, open programs, and other visible notifications jockey for unannounced attention in our mind. Notice the digital triggers that grab your attention. And ruthlessly remove them.
6. Accept and accentuate your personal rhythms. Discover the rhythms of your day to make the most of them. For example, I do my best creative work in the morning, afternoons work well for busy-work, and evenings are set aside for family—leaving late evenings for entertainment, rest, and guilt-free distraction.
Accepting and understanding our natural rhythms to the day/week provides healthy motivation to remove distractions during our most productive parts of the day knowing there is opportunity later to indulge them
7. Establish a healthy morning routine. Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The first hour is the rudder of the day.” He was absolutely right. Begin your days on your terms apart from distraction. If possible, wake first in your household. Drink your coffee or tea or fix yourself a warm breakfast. Journal or read or just enjoy the silence. Develop a distraction-free morning routine. It will lay the foundation for a less-distracted day.
8. Cancel cable / Unplug television. It is difficult to argue against the distracting nature of our television. Researchers tell us the average American watches 37-40 hours of television each week. There is, of course, a solution to this madness: unplug your television completely.
But if this step seems too drastic a stretch for your family, you’ll never regret the simple decision to cancel cable. Your calendar will thank you for the extra time available. Your wallet will thank you for the extra dollars. And you’ll quickly wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
9. Keep a to-do list. One of the most helpful and practical pieces of advice I ever received about keeping focus is the simple solution of keeping a to-do list handy and current. No matter how hard you try to manage yourself, new responsibilities and opportunities will surface in your mind from internal and external sources.
The opportunity to quickly write down the task allows it to be quickly discarded from your mind. I use Clear as a simple, easy-to-use opportunity list.
10. Care less what other people think. The value of your life is not measured by the number of likes your Facebook post receives or the number of positive comments on your blog post. Please understand, there is great value in humbly seeking opinion and appreciating the wise counsel of those who love you.
But there is no value in wasting mental energy over the negative criticism of those who only value their own self-interests. Learn to recognize the difference. And stop living distracted over the opinion of people who don’t matter.
There is little doubt our world is filled with constant distraction—it always has been. And there is little doubt that those who achieve the greatest significance in life learn to manage it effectively—they always have.
Image: Richard Ruzsa
Matt S says
Thank you very much fro the article
Alice Crady says
Excellent article! Thank you for sharing :)
These are such powerful reminders.
Good reminder of tips for living simply that I have either come to organically or read from other sources, but easily forget or things Ive tried but not long enough to become habit. One thing that always makes me chuckle with these lists – the encouragement to limit use of phones/technology (because of them obviously being a source of distraction) but then a “tip” to use technology to be less distracted – such as the to-do list. I still find a good old notebook / piece of paper to be the best to-do there is.
Thank you! Revisiting the simple basics is reinforcing and nourishing!
My wife shares this minimalist stuff with me and I must admit I like most of it, but some of it is boring repetition. Just like this article which is the most conventional non-conventional list i’ve seen in a while. Unless of course they were referring to cave-man conventions.
Debbie Deb says
Repetition is the mother of all living.
Chad Lovell says
Loved the article. By the grace of God I’m able to keep life simple! Still working on things but I know I’m no saint. Not perfect. But with articles like this I know I’m heading in the right direction as I agree with 100% of the things written in the article! Thanks kindly!
Yes. Very helpful indeed. If I may also suggest something for those who can’t seem to get their
mind to stop in the middle of the day… I’ve had amazing success using fidget spinners for ADHD and stress relief.
When I shared your post on Facebook my friends also foudn it
paket umroh ramadhan says
nice information. send me email if you have another like this.
Mr. Milind S. Khairnar says
This is some great advice. What if you just want to control how much you use your phone? Like when you need it to get your mind off of work? I found a tool that would let you do that, without the risk of wasting time. It’s called AutoLockMe. Check out the website: http://autolockme-0.launchrock.com/
Thanks for these valuable insights.Interestingly, this could also read as a check list of strategies for adult add/adhd & some spectrum disorders. Perhaps these mental disorders are the symptoms of modern life with all its crazy endless distractions pulling us in all directions.
It’s amazing how simple these points are. I know them, they are not new, but man are they hard to achieve. Thank you once again for encouraging us… If I can just get waking up first in my family right (with a toddler), I feel like I might get the rest of my day right. I also have a varied routine each day due to play school 3 times a week… 28 days right? I am going to try and make it a habit! Here is to getting it done by August.
It made my day, great work.
Thanks you especially for number 10. I’m terrible at caring too much about what other people think, even if its someone that I just met who’s opinion should have absolutely no bearing on me. Thanks again :)
Julie @ HappinessSavouredHot says
Thank you for assembling this useful list of tricks. We are constantly bombarded by stimuli and it is not doing us good. Filtering a good part of those stimuli has had an enormous impact on my well-being.
This is a Lovely post. Much needed in today’s time with access to the internet almost readily available at times its the biggest obstacle to focus. every point is to be practiced religiously.
Absolutely love advice and have learned much and have been inspired! Thank you!
Agni Skafidas says
Great article and practical tips!
It’s scary to read the high number of hours Americans watching TV. That’s almost a normal working week and people are complaining about not having enough time!
Chinese New Year 2016 says
Thanks for the tips :)
Most of these are good, but as a sports journalist/broadcaster/announcer, I could never get rid of cable, since it is a quasi-professional expense. All I have to do is watch two hockey games a month and cable pays for itself when you factor in the cost of tickets/parking/concessions. It’s not unusual for me to do that in one night. Since I graduated college in 1979, I haven’t watched any network prime-time programming and I don’t watch movies (no interest!), so my needs are very specific.
I realize this is a contrarian viewpoint, but one size does not fit all.
Feeling bless to find this website! I remembering feeling that wasn’t possible to imitate those travelers who keep with them just a backpack to be able to travel around the world even with little stuff or money….
Jamil Ali Ahmed says
A beautiful article to read that teaches a lot for the betterment of daily life. I have many such distractions. Surely I’m going to follow the tips. Thanks Joshua
ur article helped me with recognizing my distractions, specially the “remove physical clutter” suggestion. keep it up.
I love making list, write it down so I can focus on other things, then I love crossing items off list.
Wtf is the point of this site and how are distractions a bad thing? Think about all the things in life, from work 9-5 hours…and tell me distractions are bad? Are there b s d distractions? Of course..just like anything. Opening a blog to sucker in impressionable people us a good thing? Hmmm
I believe the point Joshua is making in his article is for us to practice mindfulness in the things that we do each day instead of mindlessly flitting away time. Yes, we sometimes need distractions, but more often than not, being mindful of how we spend our time and saying no to things that aren’t as important makes us more productive and efficient, and gives us time for the things that really matter to us and contribute to our well-being.
I must say that I’ve been really loving this site, as it has reminded me time and time again of what’s really important and what’s not. :)
well answer Jen. Reducing distrarction to be more mindful is important to make our life productive.
How are distractions a bad thing? Well, it depends on whether you want to live your own life or that of others (mostly corporations). Every distraction – email, message, billboard, ad, interruption – is someone else taking/stealing your attention, your consciousness, for those moments. And if you allow this to happen 150 or so times a day, and maybe 30 – 40 hours of tv a week, what do you have left of yourself? If this is a meaningful life for you, OK, go for it.
I believe I have always been a minimalist but finding this site has given me motivation and information. I have never paid for cable but I do have Netflix. When it comes to lists I believe they work although I’m not yet using one. Somewhere along the line I learned when I’m trying to fall asleep and I can’t because I have something on my mind if I write it down it’s no longer on my mind and I can fall asleep. I have never had notifications turned on on my phone. And for text messages being the new email I have the solution. On my iPhone I have the ability to place any text message conversation on do not disturb I still receive messages but I’m not notified when I get them. All group texts get placed on do not disturb and even some friends and family who text often do. I still receive the text but I just check them when it’s convenient for me.
Great read. I’m curious about your thoughts regarding text messages since that seems to be replacing email. It also seems to be way more distracting than email because it is so much more instantaneous. The research also indicates that people check their text messages and respond to their text messages more immediately.
Bob Pepe says
I fully agree…I am getting so many text messages it is a major source of stress and usually worthless.
Email is “old school” now… its all about texting
The less you reply, the less they come. If you respond on your own time (NOT immediately) and explain that you’re not always able to respond to texts right away people will get the hint.