4 Small Steps for a Simpler, Less Distracted and Less Stressful Online Life

“Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.”
Jim Rohn

Do you often get distracted online?

Do you struggle with getting the most important things done each workday because you get stuck on Twitter or in your inbox?

Are you split between your online life and your real life at the same time as you check your Facebook while trying to have a conversation?

The internet allows us to connect with people all over the world, to learn about just about anything and check out an endless amount of cute cat photos.

But is can also become a huge time- and attention-thief. A source of distraction that add a lot of stress too as you get behind on work or miss out on being fully there with the people around you.

So what can you do about it? Here are 4 steps that help me.

1. Shut off your notifications and make yourself unavailable as much as you can.

To be able to fully focus on your most important tasks:

  • Shut off notifications in your email client and other such programs.
  • Shut down instant messaging programs.

Then do your work with less stress, interruptions and ways to procrastinate.

2. Create a small and time-limited checking ritual at the end of your workday.

A less reactive way to handle email etc. – compared to always checking when you get a notification or being online in your instant messaging clients all the time – is to check and use such things at a certain time during your workday.

I recommend stringing all your checks one after another into one small ritual. And to perhaps do your instant messaging during that time-period too.

By bunching your email processing and social media checking and only setting off for example 20 minutes for email and 5 minutes for Facebook each day you stay focused instead of drifting off and spending too much of your attention and energy on those things.

I do my checking ritual at the end of my workday because then my energy levels are relatively low and I know I have used my peak hours earlier in the day to put dents into the most important things (usually writing and creating posts, newsletters and courses).

If you can’t wait until the end of the day wait for just an hour. You can probably postpone the checking for one hour in the morning without big consequences. Then, if possible, try the following:

After a day or two, try to move the checking further down the day. Maybe to after lunch. Or perhaps even, as I have, to the end of the workday.

The further you can move the checking in your workday, the less of a priority it will feel like as you fill the first hour(s) of your day with what is actually the most important stuff. This will reduce the impulse checking that often becomes worse if you start your day with the email etc.

3. Limit your access to your smart phone and computer.

I shut off my work computer at seven o clock in the evening at the latest – but usually earlier that that – and it stays off until the next morning. By doing all my online work on this computer and by using our other computer for watching a movie for instance I draw a boundary that helps me to decrease stress and to stick to my work schedule for about 95% of the time.

My smart phone can not only become a distraction while I work but also when I am spending quality time with the people in my life.

I have learned to handle this by setting up small obstacles to using the phone. When I sleep it is not in the bedroom with me but in drawer beneath the desk in my workspace. When I work during the day or hang out at home during the evening I keep the phone in the bedroom.

By putting up small obstacles like these I make sure that the phone is not by my side all the time and the procrastination by phone has dropped to about zero. And if someone calls or sends me a text message I will still hear it most of the time.

So if you can, prevent the easy access and what that tends to result in and put the phone somewhere where you can’t see it or where you have to get up and take a whole bunch of steps to get it.

4. Pause when you feel the urge to check and just be still.

I mentioned this last week when I wrote about instant gratification but it is well worth mentioning again because it is such a simple habit and it works quite well.

When you feel the urge to escape by browsing Reddit, by checking your Facebook or by just quickly popping in to see if there are any new emails in your inbox then pause. Sit still on your chair and do nothing.

The urge and impulse will most often not stay for long. So if you just stay still and don’t act on it for a few seconds or a minute or two it will pass.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I am learning that there is an ebb and flow to it all. Not hyper-planning or flying by the seat of my pants, but a tuning in to my intuition for guidance as to what to do when and learning to just be present. I used to have a rigid schedule with everything I did and it sucked all the fun out of life. I do some general planning of my time, and there of course are specific scheduling, too, and I believe in honoring all my commitments. Finding the balance seems tricky and unfamiliar, but is well worth it.

  • maria

    I am addicted to Facebook , andI have a lot of impulses to check it , as you said , so i took the decision to unlike all the pages I liked because i mostly watch their posts ,and told mum to change my password.However, my mum told me that this is irrational ,and that i should contain myself ,and have the will to not open it.Is she right?must i keep struggling with myself of should i open it or shouldn’t I?By the way , i spend two hours a day on internet .Is that a problem?are there any advices to stop addiction?

  • Anonymous

    That’s really useful? I will try to lead my life following the advice.

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  • Superb Tips! Thanks a lot for sharing these useful tips. Nowadays, we are almost and totally connected with internet. Though by using internet we get lot of information, and a lot of work is done by using internet but we have got ourselves totally involved with internet. You have discussed some very important points of how we can make our life less stressful and take out our time for family.
    Thanks for sharing it!

  • Great ideas! They seem so logical, yet many people find them hard to do. i wonder what our obsession is with being accessible to everyone at every minute. I for one truly enjoy being out of touch. In fact, when I need some down time, I turn my phone off – or simply leave it at home. My manta – if I’m not there, I can’t help you. I’ll find out about whatever it is soon enough.