Productivity software typically focuses on task management, information organization, communication, and tracking.
The best task management software, though, is still… the direction of your attention. It is hard to manage in the age of internet and social media.
I’ve written before about turning off notifications. I still rely on that critical ability to turn off disruptions. There are great tweaks now so that you can ignore calls from everyone but your boss, loved ones, etc.
But, I rely on SelfControl to train myself to avoid misdirecting my attention.
Without some kind of assistance, trying to quit misdirecting attention is incredibly difficult. Having internet access and trying to focus is like trying to quit drinking in a bar. Sure, it’s possible, but it’s way easier if you close your tab.
If you don’t have to go online, then flip the internet switch. If you require internet access for work, SelfControl lets you blacklist your problem sites. I can still access any journal article or news source I need, but not Reddit. Also, the timer survives a restart, which is important these days, when computers boot in under 20 seconds. I can’t “cheat” the timer that way.
Whether you use the wifi switch or a program, look for your patterns of repeated behavior. Use your will to choose to interrupt them via software. You will feel yourself relax and able to focus again. There is no heroism in fighting habits constantly. You will exhaust your energy by resisting action, instead of on creative production.
Repeated, intelligent interruptions to your habits will train your will over time. Like a nicotine patch, tools allow you to practice using your will to avoid negative habits. Eventually, you will no longer need the tools, because your will has been trained. You will know you are strengthening when you find yourself beginning to type in the distracting URL, but stop and return to work without issue. Training takes time.
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