Minimize Self-distraction and Interruptions

It is often easy to fall into patterns of distraction, due to initial preference or the defaults of a system. With smartphones, virtually every app tries to push notifications at all times, as if they all needed immediate attention. Even without external cues, we lose hours to overuse. With a few ideas, and continuous experimentation, we can minimize self-distraction and interruptions.

Starting Broadly

First, what are the broad categories? Given the content and reactions required, how often should they have our attention? By visualizing and sorting, we can compare and contrast our preferences:

Anything we want/need as often as to the minute is essentially pushed on us. This is not to say that we receive an update every minute or second, but we treat every second we don’t receive a notification as a signal we have nothing to check. Every moment a fire alarm is silent tells us that we don’t have a fire to fight.

Notice When Activity Outstrips Benefit

It helps to notice how much activity is spent per benefit. On YouTube, for example, many creators post little more than weekly. Even if they post more often, the relevance can be short-lived, content can be repetive as situtations evolve, or we only care to watch a portion of the videos. If we check daily or more, it can be easy to lower our content standards as we get into the mode of watching. One is often not enough.

Much of these facts remain true for Podcasts, but for two major differences:

  1. Videos draw far more attention (Hard to do much else)
  2. YouTube is designed to encourage browsing, while many podcast providers focus on subscribed content

Nudge Into Better Habits

Rather than setting strict expectations, beating ourselves up for not changing by will alone, we can adjust our environment until we reach a desired state.

Separate from Pushy Impulses

  • Turn off notifications, or set them to appear at the preffered timing
  • Delete the application and rely on the web version
  • Unsubscribe, set emails to spam, or have them automatically marked as read

Book a Time/Day to Indulge

Once we have figured out the preferred frequency, it helps to set a specific time and/or day to indulge. By planning ahead, we can figure out which periods fit best in relation to other activities. We can also use fixed schedules to lower the risk of conditioning ourselves into excessive use.

We can also take advantage of features, like Android’s Focus Mode, to temporarily block notifications and access to certain applications.

Bundle Activities

Instead of timing, we can also restrict activities to be combined with others:

  • Podcasts with chores
  • Videos with exercise machines
  • Deskwork with a treadmill
  • Audiobooks with drawing or stretching
  • Nearly anything with friends/family

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