Don’t Open That Tab! 5 Tips for Avoiding Online Distractions When Working

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Working online is a great option for many modern workers. Whether you’re a freelance writer, a graphic designer, or a former office worker whose job has gone remote, you’ll benefit from the increased flexibility that online work provides. You’re also likely to get more done – 77% of remote workers claim they’re more productive – but only if you can avoid online distractions.

Staying focused when working online is often harder than it seems. After all, the entire internet is at your fingertips. You can overcome the allure of infinite news articles, social media posts, and funny cat videos by adopting the right anti-distraction strategy. Here are five tips for avoiding online rabbit holes and staying focused on the task at hand.

Develop a Consistent Routine

Humans really are creatures of habit, and we perform much better when we can develop a set routine. Flexibility might be a principal benefit of working online, but you don’t want to take it too far.

Give yourself a rigid starting time for your work-related activities, and schedule breaks so you can rest your mind without falling into an endless cycle of distraction. This fixed schedule will create barriers between work and leisure, making it easier to get fully into “work mode” when the need arises.

Turn Off Notifications on Your Phone

Most people work with their phones right beside them, and the constant barrage of pings and notifications makes it extremely difficult to focus. If you don’t need your phone for work, then stashing it away from your workstation is an obvious solution to this problem.

Unfortunately, many remote workers use their phones to communicate with clients, bosses, or colleagues – and that’s where shutting off certain notifications becomes essential. Your boss might need you to be reachable, but your Instagram followers and Facebook friends will be fine if you go incommunicado. Before starting your workday, turn off notifications for social media platforms and other distracting apps. That way, you’ll only be bothered by calls and messages that are truly essential.

Identify and Eliminate Underlying Triggers

Online distractions often have a compulsive element. You don’t plan to waste two hours on Youtube videos – it just sort of happens. Instead of haranguing yourself when you slip up, take a moment to determine what led up to your fateful decision. What was going on when you opened that distracting website? Were you bored? Tired? Stressed?

Once you’ve identified your triggers, you can set about eliminating them at the source. If boredom is what drives you to waste time, look for ways you can break up your workday so you have an easier time staying engaged. If tiredness is the issue, examine your sleep schedule and see if there’s a way you could get more rest. For stress-related issues, consider common relaxation techniques like meditation and exercise. Not only will these steps help you avoid online distractions, but they’ll also make you a better worker and a healthier human being.

Block the Websites That Are Wasting Your Time

When addressing triggers isn’t enough to keep you on task, you know it’s time to take a more drastic approach: blocking the sites that waste your time. There are lots of downloadable programs available that can help you place distracting content out of reach. Many of these platforms can block sites according to a specific schedule, allowing you to avoid online distractions during the workday and then enjoy your guilty pleasures when you’re finally free. 

Sometimes, no amount of discipline will keep you from taking a “quick peek” at sites that go on to consume hours of your time. Anti-distraction tools can eliminate these temptations once and for all.

Take Breaks to Avoid Screen-Induced Burnout

If you work online, you’re probably familiar with this situation: You really want to be productive, so you’re forcing yourself to stay in your chair and stare at your screen – but your exhausted brain has long since turned to mush, and all you’re doing is wasting time with mindless online content.

When you recognize you’re in this position, give yourself permission to get up and move around. Your mind is telling you that you need a break, and yet you’re continuing to strain your eyes by looking at the screen. If you spend a few minutes away from the computer doing something you enjoy, you’ll probably be able to sit back down and regain your focus.


About the Author: Ben Clabault is a freelance writer from Sandwich, Massachusetts. He has spent much of his adult life traveling through Latin America. He currently lives with his fiance in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His areas of expertise include travel, marketing, SaaS, and global cultures. You can find his work on Copyfolio and reach out to him on LinkedIn.