6 Ways To Minimize Cell Phone Distractions At Work
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Cell phone distractions are the uninvited guests at the productivity party, constantly interrupting your workflow and stealing your attention. Thankfully, there are several easy strategies to overcome phone distractions at work and help you reclaim your productivity and peace of mind.
In the age of social networks, when you can start talking to anybody in a matter of seconds, we all feel the need to be available at all times.
However, reaching for your phone every other minute and quickly glimpsing at it just in case there is something new obviously doesn’t help your work. In fact, it’s one of the main external sources of procrastination.
In this post, I’m sharing with you some easy ideas that helped me reduce my cell phone distractions to a minimum when I’m working.
An addiction to distraction is the end of your creative production.
When you realize that half of the workday is gone and you haven’t even done anything useful yet, your phone is often the one to blame.
Even if you don’t scroll through your feed for too long, being regularly distracted by a seemingly harmless two-second phone check breaks your focus and requires your brain to re-concentrate on the task all over again.
In addition to that, it messes with your hormone levels, keeping you high on cortisol (stress hormone) when you are waiting for the phone to beep and rewarding you with dopamine (happiness hormone) when a new notification arrives.
All of the above may not be noticeable on a daily basis, but it eventually ends up and may lead to procrastination, self-doubt, anxiety, and many more things that are bad for your health and result in even lower productivity.
Usually, when you don’t feel good, you don’t want to work and don’t care about being successful at all.
The trick to avoiding all the negative effects of technology is to stop worrying about missing out!
Cell phone distractions are the sneaky accomplices to the fear of missing out, constantly feeding your anxiety and sabotaging your productivity.
In an age where being connected 24/7 has become the norm, it’s difficult to escape the nagging feeling that you might miss something important if you’re not always “plugged in.” This psychological battle wreaks havoc on your focus and ability to accomplish tasks.
In 99,9999999% of cases, the world won’t collapse if you miss a message or a call.
Seriously. It won’t.
You don’t have to be on alert every minute of your precious time when you can be calm and productive instead.
How being distracted by the phone affects your productivity
A psychologist Éilish Duke from London University investigated the link between smartphone usage in the workplace and its effects on productivity levels.
Her study showed that the process of actively checking your phone notifications creates a constant distraction that keeps you from reaching the state of flow – the best state of your workflow when you are deeply concentrated on your task and the most productive.
Other research showed that it takes about 23 minutes to get back to this flow state after you get distracted. So, even if you only check your phone once an hour (whereas the average person does it every 18 minutes at work), it’s enough to keep you from ever getting into the state of flow.
Workplace distraction statistics show that on an average day, people tend to look at their phones approximately 352 times, with a significant portion of these checks occurring during work hours.
I remember a fun old post from early 2009 that discusses the importance of being in a flow. It’s called “Don’t wake up the programmer!”. The author talks in the context of software development, but it can be applied to any kind of office work that requires deep focus. Still true in 2023.
Éilish also mentions that even a brief three-second-long distraction by mobile devices breaks your concentration and leads to more errors throughout your current task. So you will have to spend more time fixing the issues later. That is, if you don’t get distracted when checking for errors…
Do you think it’s worth it? Risking the quality of your work just to find out about new Instagram like or to read another promotional email?
If your answer is “of course not,” read on to learn how to avoid it!
How to minimize cell phone distractions in the workplace
Whether you have a policy regarding smartphone usage at work or you work for yourself, you are the only person who can really control your smartphone usage.
Don’t rely on anyone to stop you; incorporate some personal workplace etiquette that works for you and keeps your productive work going.
Here are six easy things you can do to minimize cell phone distractions during work time!
1. Block distracting apps
How many times did you find yourself scrolling social media instead of working, having no idea how you even ended up there in the first place?
That’s pretty much the main goal of every social app on your phone: grab your attention and keep it to themselves for as long as possible.
At some point, I got so frustrated with not being able to control my time that I went ahead and installed an app blocker. It really helps me not to waste time on socials when I’m supposed to work.
Block distracting apps, and you’ll notice a dramatic change in your productivity levels. App blockers allow you to set limits on the time spent on social media or block them entirely during work hours. By restricting access to these attention-grabbing apps, you give yourself a chance to fully concentrate on your projects.
2. Let people know your availability
Allocate a few time blocks during your day for communication, and let everyone know that this is the only time they can call you or message you.
Ignore all the attempts to reach you outside that timeframe unless it’s really urgent. Direct all the calls to your voicemail. Let people know you are serious about your schedule and value your time so everyone else learns to value it too.
Use one of the meeting scheduling tools to manage your interactions. If someone wants to hop on a call with you, you just send them a link to your availability calendar.
To maximize your productivity, avoid unnecessary calls and distracting back-and-force emails at all costs!
A meeting scheduler offers the person a choice of several time windows that work for you and lets them book one that works for them too. This automatically creates a meeting event and adds it to both of your calendars.
A tool like that is also useful when you need to decide on a date for some event or time for a group call that works for most people. Just in a few clicks, you can create a poll, share it with everyone, and easily find a winner time for that event.
3. Use a focus app
When distractions get the better of your willpower, a focus app can swoop in to help you stay on track.
The primary purpose of these apps is to help you steer clear of procrastination and maintain focus on your task. They may include features such as focus timers, task management tools, and even ambient background sounds to create an optimal work environment.
Lots of focus apps use the Pomodoro Technique. It’s all about breaking work into smaller chunks, traditionally 25 minutes, with short breaks in between.
Depending on the app you use, it can either automatically block other apps and websites or simply make sure you don’t open anything else. Some even add an element of gamification which makes you lose all your progress if you open a social media app or launch a game before you finish your focus session.
Generally, a focus app is invaluable for minimizing mobile distractions as it helps you manage your time and work productively.
4. Keep your cell phone away
According to psychiatrists, your cortisol level is constantly elevated when your cell phone is in your sight. The permanent feeling of anticipation and the indicator blinking in your field of vision both make your body want to grab and check your phone to make sure everything is alright.
To save yourself a lot of subconscious anxiety, you can just hide your phone from your eyes as long as you don’t need it for work.
If you don’t trust yourself not to touch it, there is always a phone lock box.
Personally, I noticed that I’m the most productive on the days when I forget my phone in the kitchen or when it runs out of battery and turns off without me noticing.
That’s why I don’t keep it close to me when I work anymore.
If you can, leave it in another room. If not, put it muted into your bag or desk drawer so you at least don’t see it in your peripheral vision all the time.
5. Leverage Do Not Disturb modes
You may be using a DND mode for your sleeping hours already, but why not leverage the benefits of it for your working time as well?
It depends on your device manufacturer, but usually, the Do Not Disturb mode is highly customizable to your needs.
I mentioned this simple tool before as one of my 100 productivity tips, and I can’t even tell you how much time it can save you. Try and see for yourself – you’ll be amazed.
For example, here are some DND settings you can set up on almost any smartphone:
- Schedule. Set it and forget it. It will automatically turn DND mode on and off according to your chosen time and skip the days on which you don’t need it to guard your time.
- Exceptions. You may still need your alarms or calendar appointments to work, even when everything else is muted.
- Repeat callers. This is a nice feature I always have on! If you choose to allow this, the second call in a row from the same person will go through. People rarely call you twice unless it’s urgent, right?
- Favorite contacts. If your boss or business partner needs you right now, you better not ignore it. The calls and/or messages from trusted contacts will not be muted.
- Visual notifications. You are in full control here! Decide whether or not you want to see any notification icons on the lock screen. Turn off the LED indicator so repeated blinking doesn’t take away your attention.
Besides the main DND mode on your phone, some apps have their own Do Not Disturb mode features that you can make good use of.
Pay attention to what apps are the most distracting and check their settings – maybe they have it too. For example, I put my email checker in DND mode during the first four hours of my workday, which allows me to focus on the more important stuff.
6. Turn off annoying notifications
Out of all the apps I’ve ever had, Facebook has the most distracting notification system.
It spams you with everything that happens related to your profile, making you jump back to the app again and again until you get lost scrolling through the feed. Again.
Many people may not know this, but you can actually customize all the settings for a particular app: choose which notifications you need right away, which you can receive in bulk, and which you don’t need at all.
This works for any app you have, not only Facebook or anything social!
However, social applications contribute the most to your cell phone distractions in the workplace, and you risk your productivity a lot if you don’t manage them correctly.
On most phones, you can long tap or gently swipe a specific notification you received to manage all the similar ones.
You likely don’t want to be notified throughout the day about each post that comes up on every page you follow or every group you are part of. On the other hand, birthday reminders might actually be useful!
…Or you can do what I did and just turn it all off.
I did it a long time ago and never regretted it. I can open the app and check everything when I’m done with my main tasks for the day or consciously decide to have a break.
The choice is yours, but believe me when I say that it saves a ton of time you can put into your projects instead!
Final thoughts on cell phone distractions at work
Let’s sum up, shall we?
To save yourself from cellphone distractions, you can:
- Disable apps that distract you from work
- Let others know your available timeframes
- Use a focus app to stay on task
- Put your smartphone out of sight
- Take advantage of the Do Not Disturb mode
- Turn off app notifications you don’t need
Have you read up to this point without looking at your smartphone? If so, congratulations; maybe you aren’t that addicted after all, and your productivity doesn’t struggle! (Unless you are reading this when you are supposed to work.)
Otherwise, you might need to incorporate some of the mentioned techniques to improve your ability to focus on important tasks. The easiest way is to put your cell phone away: out of sight, out of mind.
Unless you need it for your current task, go and hide your phone in another room, or at least far enough that you don’t hear the notifications coming. I mean it: go and do this right now!
It works best for me when I need to minimize distractions and get my work done. By the way, the quality of your final work is usually noticeably better when you aren’t constantly distracted in the process!
On this note, I stop talking and let you go back to your work. I hope you learned some useful tricks and won’t have any unwanted cell phone distractions in your workplace anymore!