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Easily distracted? 5 ways to reduce online distraction at work

Posted by Reem Boudraa January 30, 2013 2 Comments

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The internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. Whether we’re working or playing, the internet is always there, with a flow of information that never ends. Every single minute, more “stuff” is being sent our way: emails, text messages, voicemails, instant messages, Twitter messages, Facebook posts, etc. Yes, even the most productive professionals have to battle online distractions.

With that said, it is no surprise that folks in the Middle East spend much of their time online for fun. In fact, according to’s ‘Rest and Recreation Habits Among MENA Professionals’ poll (January 2013), 30.7% of people say that they spend more than five hours a day surfing the internet just for fun.

So, whether you’re a programmer or marketer trying to fight the urge to watch one more cat video on YouTube, or a designer pinning that one last picture on your boards on Pinterest, here are a few tips for staying focused while you’re working on the web:

1. Avoid distractions by prioritizing your tasks

When it comes to organizing your daily tasks, create two lists: one for urgent items, and another for less urgent ones. Tasks of a less urgent nature deserve a list of their own and should not compete against the urgent items that can easily consume your day. Once you have two lists, you can preserve distinctly different periods of time for focus on each. This will help you allocate any extra time for guilt-free surfing on the internet.

You can also follow the ‘pick three’ rule. While most of us have more things to complete than time to complete them, it’s important to identify your most important tasks. Take a few minutes first thing every morning and prioritize your work schedule. Identify your 3 most important tasks, and try to get those done first. Then, no matter how distracted you get, you’ll feel better knowing you also accomplished some important items.

2. Reduce real-time distractions

In the era of Google Analytics and Twitter, we spend too much time obsessing over real-time data just because it’s at our fingertips. Whether it’s checking your website’s traffic or your bank account, these small repetitive actions can prove to be a big loss of time and energy.

Reduce real-time distractions by establishing some guidelines and rituals for yourself that provide more discipline, such as restricting all these little distractions to a specified 30-minute block every day.

You can also limit the number of sites you need to check. Limit yourself to one bank account to check, for example, and one email account and message board. Once you are finished checking these accounts there is no reason to browse all over the place and waste time.

3. Manage your social time

The internet is an amazing way to waste your time. Acknowledge the fact that you need just the right amount of internet play time during the day by managing time spent on social networks.

Social networking is a tool, but it often uses us instead of the other way around. Unless you use it exclusively for business purposes, make the use of Facebook, Twitter, and other sites something you do only on your off-work time, or during your prescribed ‘distraction’ periods.

The first and possibly easiest thing you can do to stay focused is to limit your access to the sites that you know distract you. YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter – stay away from them all, especially during early hours where productivity is at its peak.

Another good way to manage your social time is by setting a timer. Set a timer for 50 minutes of work, and then give yourself a mental break for 5-10 minutes of social media fun. If you can’t read your favorite blog or play an online game during those 5-10 minutes then it has to wait until you get home. Stick to the timer or your entire day will slip away via status updates and YouTube videos!

Free programs also exist that can disable social sites.

4. Control emails

Do you immediately open and respond to emails? Email can affect your productivity at work and is a huge distraction. Email was intended to save us time and help us be more efficient. But recently, it has backfired. Today, email takes too much of our time and is reducing our productivity.

Email is still a tool that can improve communication, but it can also woo you away from more important tasks. Turning off the sound on your computer or even turning off your email and only checking it at designated times can help keep you from constantly checking your inbox. If you close your email there will be less distraction more concentration, and a happier and more productive you.

Remember, few email messages require immediate responses; anything you receive can wait for attention until after your work is done.

5. Focus

You can try to limit your penchant for mindless surfing through sheer willpower alone.

So before you start work, it’s important to instruct your brain that you would like it to focus. Otherwise you’ll find it will wander off and start to think about what to cook for dinner. Mentally make a point of saying to yourself “Now I am going to focus for the next few hours”.

How do you steer clear of distracting websites while you’re working online? Let us know!

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About Reem Boudraa

Reem Boudraa

Reem oversees the content creation and strategy at She loves research and reading, and enjoys writing about business and innovation.

View all post by Reem Boudraa

  • Thanks for sharing this information. I really like your way of expressing the opinions. I like your blog because your posts are very informative me.

  • Wow this is an awesome listing as I work remotely and these would be items that I would focus on.

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