Notify This, Dickwad: How to Eliminate Distractions and Be More Productive

I visited a friend once – somebody who claims she has trouble settling down to work each day, gets distacted constantly, and finds it impossible to enter that delicious thing that is flow state. In fact, I’m not sure she’s ever experienced flow state. And as soon as I visited her, I understood why.

Her phone was pinging a lot. All. The. Time. A notification for everything.

Remember MSN messenger? I was once distraught when I realised it had stopped notifying me every time I received an email in my Hotmail account. (Oh Hotmail, them were the days!) I used to get a little thrill every time I got an email. There’s some science behind it, though I couldn’t tell you what. Anyway, turns out, it’s kind of addictive. You probably get those little thrills too. How many times do you nip into your email account each day to see what’s up?

I’m guessing not that many (SURPRISE TWIST). Because you’re probably automatically alerted every time you’re emailed, amirite? And then you check your email immediately? Or, fuck, maybe you just leave Gmail open all the time. (Or Hotmail, if you’re old school. Wait, is it even called Hotmail any more?)

I bought a MacBook Air a little while ago. I know, right? I’m one of those d-bags now. No kidding, I actually caught myself in a Starbucks with a frickin’ eggnog latte the other day – iPhone in one hand, Kindle in another and Macbook in the other. (Alright, so I am kidding. But not about those eggnog lattes. Those things are fucking delicious, god damn them. I hate myself.)

SO. Back to the story. When I booted up this glamorous new MacBook of mine, it magically synced up with my phone. Like that was a good thing. I mean really, who the hell wants to receive text messages on their computer, for frack’s sake? Well, probably a lot of people; people who want that MSN messenger buzz every time somebody communicates with them in any way at all.

And how about that Facebook Messenger app, always harassing you, trying to persuade you to allow push notifications?

It’s the stuff of nightmares. NIGHTMARES. Seriously: this kind of distraction is the downfall of many an entrepreneur and freelancer. If you let this shit into your life, you won’t get even half as much stuff done as you plan to. And let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard enough motivating yourself to do your effin’ work even without the constant distractions.

So here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Turn off all notifications on your phone, except for phone calls and text messages. You know, like how phones used to be. Sigh.
  • That means no chirrup when somebody tweets you. No whoosh when somebody Facebooks you. No sound of any kind of when anybody does anything of any description on any one of your social media accounts. CAPISCE?
  • And no banner notifications either, for that matter. I don’t even allow notifications when I’m IN my phone, using the damn thing. If I want to know if I’ve got any new emails, I have to make the effort to check in for myself. Ditto Facebook messages, tweets, et al. I’m checking my emails when I want to, thank you very much, not when some little ping Pavlovs me into it.
  • Set your phone to silent or do not disturb when you’re working. And leave it face down. Or in another room.
  • Do not allow iMessages on your Mac. Don’t sync any of that shit. Your phone is your phone and your computer is your computer. Keep it that way.
  • Install an app like SelfControl for Mac or StayFocusd for Chrome, which allow you to block certain websites for specified chunks of time. I do this for 90 minute concentrated sessions, although once I start working I pretty much never find myself even attempting to click through to the banned sites. Flow state FTW!

And most importantly: Don’t let other people determine when is your work-time and when is your fuck-about-time. Do you really want to give just anybody – literally anybody who has your email address – your attention, at the drop of a ping? Fuck that.

Your time is important. Your attention is important. So start respecting yourself, and don’t let anybody interrupt you without your permission.