Three Simple yet Incredibly Hard Productivity Tips

28 March 2014 by Mathias Meyer

Our working days (even our spare time and holidays) are filled with distractions. Every social network that we used is fighting for our attention. Plus, emails are always waiting to be replied to, archived or deleted. Push notifications are constantly reminding us to reply to a friend, that one

Together, they've formed the holy trifecta of distractions trying to pull us away from getting work done.

Here are some simple yet incredibly hard suggestions:

  • Disable push notifications on your phone except for the most important services.

    I've come to think of push notifications as push interruptions. They do nothing but distract, they urge you to pick up your phone, to do something. They directly appeal to our need for something new, something exciting.

    I only have push notifications enabled for text messages these days and for our alerting. If there's one thing I want to be made aware of, it's when production is down.

  • Avoid checking email first thing in the morning

    As helpful as email is in communicating, plowing through your morning inbox sucks the bejesus out of your creativity. I found it to be poison for mine, in particular getting started in the morning.

    Rather than continuously have email open, only check it in intervals. If you can't get used to that easily, set a timer, and don't break the timer.

  • Kill Twitter, Facebook, and all the others

    Okay, this is harsh. But I found that Twitter is just as bad for my creativity juice as reading email first thing. There's always a lot going on, which is why we like checking our social network feeds in the first place.

    And that's exactly what they prey on, our time, the little bit of attention we can muster up to focus on something for a short period of time. I love reading what's happening out there, but at the same time, I love getting work done.

These steps sound so simple, yet they're incredibly hard. We get excited by the thought of a new email bringing us good news, by a friend texting us or by someone liking a photo. But does it really add anything so useful that it warrants distracting us from what's really relevant?

I've removed Twitter, Instagram, games, even email from my phone. It's quite deliberating. It does turn an iPhone into a rather expensive two-factor authentication device, but it removes a lot of pointless distractions.

Banksy says it best:

No more vibrating phone when an email comes in, when someone sends me a direct message or likes a photo.

All that can wait. My focus can't.

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