I love keyboard shortcuts. I enjoy doing things efficiently, and I don’t like using a mouse or trackpad because my wrists hurt, so I end up learning tons of keyboard shortcuts for the software I use on a daily basis.
A common shortcut is Cmd+t on a web browser; that opens up a new tab. The problem is that I don’t stop there; right after Cmd+t, I type:
- “h”: my browser autocompletes to “hckrnews.com”
- “f”: “facebook.com”
- “t”: “twitter.com”
- “i”: “instagram.com”
- “r”: “reddit.com”
If I’m even slightly bored with what I’m doing or feeling somewhat lazy about a particular task I need to finish, I’ll type Cmd+t and one of those letters, and spend a couple of minutes in one of those websites. It’s always for short periods each time, but it’s still enough to make me lose focus, pay attention to things I should not be paying attention to, get outraged with crazy Brazilian politicians, and more. Also, I do this dozens of times per day.
… well, I used to do that many times per day, but that doesn’t happen anymore.
What did I do to fix that behaviour? I installed Focus.
Focus is a great application that blocks certain websites and redirects distractions to a blank page with a message you can customize. You can click and start a 25 minutes timer, for instance, to do a task in a focused way; if you try to open Twitter, you’ll be redirected to a page saying “Go to work!” or something like that.
To fix my behaviour, though, I didn’t use small timers: I went nuclear. I set up Focus to block every distracting site I could think of (social media, news, YouTube, etc.) between 8 am and 11 pm every single day except Sundays.
It’s been over a month, and this has been a fantastic change for me. I feel more focused, less prone to mindless browsing, and the message I put on the redirect reminds me to be present.
It’s just a single word: “now.”
Every time I see it, I take a deep breath and think about what do I want to be doing now. Not what my dopamine-starved brain wants, but what I want; then, I go to that instead of scrolling Twitter or Reddit for the 90th time!
There are different (free) options that you can try on your browser, extensions like StayFocusd; you can use those to do a small test.
Can you go through a single day – a full day – without giving in to distractions? How do you feel about that? Try it and find out!