Constantly distracted? Buy a second distractions device

Takeaway: If you find yourself constantly interrupted by email and social notifications, consider buying a second computer or tablet to use solely as a distraction device. This is the device you use to access your least productive apps, websites, and social media accounts.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minutes, 44s.



Enabling the default settings on your phone or computer will derail your attention hundreds of times every day, thanks to email notifications, social media alerts, news updates, and app alerts. While these interruptions usually don’t take a lot of our time, they do significantly affect our focus as we work—which in turn significantly affects how much we get done.

I recently bought an iPad with a simple intention in mind: use it as my main “distraction device.” A few weeks ago, I deleted every social media app on my phone, disabled email alerts on my computer (even those from VIP contacts), and logged out of every unproductive social media account on my devices. To keep up with everything, I installed and enabled all of these services on my iPad—but without sound so the device wouldn’t derail my work. I keep the iPad well out of reach so I can focus more deeply on my most productive work.

The funny thing is, this plan worked. In the past few weeks, my expectations have changed depending on which device I’m in front of. When I’m at my computer, I know that opening the unproductive apps and websites I would visit out of habit isn’t an option, so I spend more time writing, researching, brainstorming, and planning talks and workshops instead. When I find myself craving some mindless stimulation during breaks, I pick up the iPad for a few minutes. Then, when I feel caught up, I get back to work.

This tactic won’t work for everybody, of course. Not everyone has the budget for a secondary distraction device. But if you value your time and attention, the investment will more than pay for itself in how much more focused and productive you’ll become. A distraction device doesn’t have to be fancy—a cheap Google Chromebook or a secondhand smartphone should do the trick. If you find that your productivity is frequently derailed throughout the day, chances are the investment will be worth it.

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