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How to maximize efficiency while minimizing digital distractions

Finding it tough to focus on what you need to do? Here are some of the best ways to be efficient and maximize your focus while keeping distractions at bay.
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Isn't it the greatest challenge to not peek at a notification or fight the urge to scroll through some Reels while working or studying? We've all been there and found ourselves deep in a digital rabbit hole hours later.

While digital devices make remote work and collaboration easy, they've also brought about distractions that harm our productivity and efficiency. We've got social media, games, streaming, music, podcasts, everything we could ask for, and more at our fingertips.

With these many sources of entertainment at hand, it's unsurprising that we find ourselves continuously straying from the task at hand. Think about how productive you would be if you were to overcome these distractions and focus on your tasks.

Need help? We've got you. Keep scrolling to understand the effects of digital distractions on your efficiency, and get some helpful tips on minimizing your digital distractions and maximizing your productivity.

Digital distractions — Meaning and effects

Our phones and laptops are as much a part of us as are our vital organs. Whether you're a student or employee, you cannot get by without emails, Zoom or Google Meet calls, and messaging to work with others. But this also means that you have constant access to your social media.

Doesn't it seem like every time you sit down to get stuff done, the group chat has come to life, your friend has a crisis, your favorite YouTuber has uploaded a new video, or there is an update on your favorite celebrity? All of which makes it impossible for you to remain focused. These are referred to as digital distractions.

Digital distractions significantly harm our productivity, primarily because of the time it takes to refocus on our work after we have satisfactorily entertained the distraction.

In a study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, it was found that a person, on average, takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recover from any interruption in workflow.

This means that every time you stop to check a notification, reply to a message, scroll through social media, or take a quick break to play a game or watch an episode of a TV show, it takes you over 23 minutes to regain your concentration and get back to the task at hand with complete focus. 

Recommended reading: How Too Many Browser Tabs Hurt Your Productivity

In another study conducted by McKinsey & Company, it was found that better awareness and knowledge about efficiently handling technology and communications would increase productivity by up to $1.3 trillion annually. It is, therefore, clear that digital distractions hinder economic and financial gains.

Causes of digital distractions

So why is it that we find ourselves to be victims of these distractions?

Let's understand the root of the problem:

  • Access to Technologies - Our investment in devices like smartphones, gaming consoles, streaming platform subscriptions, and social media accounts enables our digital distractions. In the absence of these many sources of entertainment, you would not be tempted to digress from your work.

In an OSlash survey of 1000 Americans who work from home, 58% identified social media as the biggest distraction for remote workers while 51% blamed notifications for reduced work from home productivity. 

OSlash survey of work-from-home distractions
  • Client pressures - In client-facing jobs, constant client demands can be very distracting. Certain customers need you to be available at all times to respond to their texts and calls, and this hyperactivity can disrupt your schedule.
  • Addiction - Access to digital devices can lead to an unhealthy addiction. "One more video" or "one more episode," and you're hooked! This, in turn, translates to reduced efficiency and output.

9 effective tips to minimize digital distractions and maximize efficiency

The research cited earlier indicates that distractions can have detrimental effects on individuals and organizations. The time spent entertaining a distraction and then trying to refocus on your work can be better spent being productive and completing your tasks in an efficient and timely manner.

This would also ensure that you don't need to rush through your tasks to make up for lost time and will improve the quality of your work. 

Here are some tips that can help you minimize your digital distractions and make you more efficient and productive:

1. Practicing self-awareness

The first step in handling your digital distractions is to know yourself. Look inward to identify the thoughts and emotions that cause you to be distracted.

For instance, if you find yourself watching your comfort show or listening to music when you are overwhelmed, it indicates that you are using these distractions to calm down and cope with the stress that you are feeling.

Identifying the feelings and situations in which you find yourself turning to these distractions will help you manage these emotions in a healthier manner.

Instead of keeping your mind occupied with some sort of digital entertainment, you will be able to look for a healthy coping mechanism to process and overcome your negative feelings.

2. Turning off notifications or using do not disturb mode

Social media sites use notifications to increase the amount of time you spend on their platform. The sound of a notification creates a dopamine rush which will make you want to use your social media constantly.

We have all been in a situation where we look at our phone to check a notification and wind up spending minutes or even hours whiling away time on it. The easiest way to get rid of this distraction is to turn your notifications off.

If you are not ready to take a drastic step like turning off all your push notifications, you can use the Do Not Disturb mode or Focus mode on your devices.

When you switch this mode on, it blocks all your notifications. If there are certain notifications you rely on while working, like a Teams call or message, you can change the settings to exclude certain apps or contacts from the notification block.

Do Not Disturb is an effective temporary solution to stop you from constantly turning to your phone to check your notifications.

3. Limiting social media usage

A lot of us have several social media accounts. Suppose you have a presence on WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and other networking sites.

In that case, you are likely to find yourself overwhelmed trying to keep up with these platforms. This can also be very time-consuming and get in the way of your productivity.

An excellent way to tackle this is to limit social media usage and uninstall unwanted platforms. Limit your time to those platforms that you actually use to interact with those who add some value to your feed.

It may seem daunting at first, and you may have a feeling of missing out on important moments or updates, but with time, you will find your productivity improving tremendously.

4. Taking digital detox breaks

If you are trying to avoid distractions by taking drastic measures like not buying a smartphone, or you avoid using it and other distracting applications like social media sites, games, or streaming platforms, you will often find that it is not an effective long-term solution.

Instead, you can set boundaries and limitations on your usage. Even social media detox allows you to reset.

You can set time limits for when you can and cannot use your smartphone and how long you should use it for at one stretch.

For instance, you can limit your break time to one game or one episode of a show instead of spending hours binging and being unable to put your device down. This will gradually improve your focused time and productivity.

5. Giving yourself a reward

Working towards gratification can significantly improve your efficiency and focus. The promise of appreciation and a prize is an effective mechanism to keep you on track with your tasks.

You can choose to give yourself a reward based on what you would want most. For instance, if you are a foodie, you can reward yourself with a snack; if you are a social media fanatic, you can reward yourself with some browsing time on social media.

This will limit your digital distractions to the specific window of your reward and ensure that you are focused for the remainder of your work day. 

6. Using productivity apps

Productivity apps ensure that you are not disturbed by unnecessary notifications while you are working and can also be used to lock your access to certain distracting apps while you work.

You can choose apps and contacts that you need access to for the purpose of your work and block the others for focus periods. Once your focus period is over, you can take a break and access the blocked apps.

Productivity apps generally block access to the app automatically as soon as the predetermined break period has lapsed.

Time-tracking apps can be incredibly helpful when it comes to controlling your productivity. They  help you track how much time you're spending on different tasks throughout the day. Unfortunately, such apps necessitate screen interaction so they can also become a digital distraction themselves. Luckily, physical time trackers like TimeFlip are free from this flaw. Once set up, this app-powered dice sits on your desk and logs time with a simple flip. 

You can also check out productivity apps that help you speed up your workflow, saving you precious time in the day. Tools such as OSlash text expander, for instance, transform your URLs and most-used pieces of text into quick shortcuts and snippets. As a result, they get rid of the distractions caused by 

  • having too many tabs open for the fear of losing your important links
  • indulging in mindless back-and-forth with colleagues while locating shared company resources
  • needing to type or copy-paste the same text or URL over and over in multiple places

OSlash allows you to instantly find the information you need to get your tasks done, keeping digital distractions at bay and skyrocketing your productivity. 

7. Scheduling your tasks

Making to-do lists and keeping track of your schedule ensures that you remain focused and get your work done on time. You can use a calendar, to-do list apps, or task management software to make a schedule and stick to it.

These apps also give you a general overview of all the tasks on your plate and can help you prioritize and organize, especially when you have an overwhelming number of deadlines. Getting your task done on time and striking it off your to-do list is also a satisfying feeling.

8. Practicing meditation

In addition to restraining yourself from accessing your sources of distractions, it is also important to calm and condition your mind so that you don't feel the need to be distracted.

Practicing meditation for a few minutes every day can help you get centered and block out distracting thoughts. 

9. Using goal-setting apps

Goal-setting apps can be a powerful tool for improving your focus and productivity. These apps provide a convenient way to set and track your goals, making it easier to stay motivated and focused on what's most important.

 One benefit of using goal-setting apps is that they can help you break down seemingly daunting  goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. This can make it easier to stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed by a big project. Additionally, many apps provide reminders and notifications to help you stay on track and hold yourself accountable.

Another advantage of using a goal-setting app is that they can help you track your progress over time. By monitoring your progress, you can identify areas where you may need to adjust your approach or work harder to stay on track. This can help you stay engaged, even when the going gets tough.

Overall, using a goal-setting app can be an effective way to improve your focus and productivity. 


Keeping away from your device can be a fearful thought, and you may find yourself experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out) or FOBO (fear of being offline). However, it is important to understand how these devices are keeping you from being your most productive self, which may be negatively impacting your income and work.

The above tips will help you manage your fears and distractions and increase your productivity. Keeping a healthy balance between your work & your devices with these tips will maximize the efficiency and quality of your work and also improve your mindset and thinking.

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