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How to work distraction free

How to work distraction free

Everyday, almost all knowledge workers are getting a huge (digital) information overload. This is caused by several channels:

  • Task/Calendar notifications
  • Email/im/call notifications
  • General/Fun (News) websites / RSS feed reeders
  • Social media (twitter, facebook, instagram)
  • App push notifications

The problem with these notifications is that they distract you from getting things done. One solution, could be to turn all the notifications off, but then you dismiss the advantage from some notifications that are indeed useful. (Think off phone calls, Calendar reminders, etc.). So the cure seems to be to filter the information.
Question is: How do you filter information and notifications in such a way that it is both useful and not to distracting?

To have a broader understanding read the theory from Clay Shirky. He said “When the amount of information available to be filtered is effectively unlimited, as is the case on the Net, then every improvement in the quality of filters will make information overload worse.”

In line with this, the best strategy could be: neglect some information/notifications completely and for some information sources enable / disable them based on the context. Below a description of a strategy based on this.

Information/notifications that can be ignored/disabled completely.

  • General/Fun (News) websites. These sites are like sugar for the mind. It won’t overload your brain, but it is still toxic. It doesn’t give any (real) value and their are always friends to tell you the most important news in person.
  • New social media posts. There is no post in the world that is that important to distract you from your work.
  • Newsletters. Almost anything that can be found in a newsletter can be read later. Set up filters to pass the inbox.
  • App push notifications that cannot be processed on a computer. These apps require you to unlock your phone, when you are working on your computer. This costs extra time and having extra risk of opening other apps.
  • Double notifications: Many apps send notification emails and trigger a push notification on an app, be sure to disable one of them (for example the calendar app does it for invites)

Information/notifications that can be changed based on the context/situation.

  • All asynchronous (im/email/etc.) cross device app notifications (available on all devices) can be switched off by the DND switch in an iPhone and on OSX.
  • All synchronous (phone) single device app notifications are also blocked by the iPhone DND switch. But there is a trick: You can add favorites and/or groups that do come true the DND mode. When forwarding your fixed phone number with CLID (caller id forwarding) switched off, it alsways sends your business phone number.
  • In this way it is possible to add it as exception in DND.
  • Not all apps on osx are respecting DND, suchs as voip apps and whatsapp.