Tech companies use external triggers to hack our attention. The pings and dings from our devices often distract us by pulling us away from what we really want to do. We may try to ignore those triggers, but research shows that ignoring a call or message can be just as distracting as responding to one.
Not all external triggers are distractions, however. If used to help you accomplish tasks, external triggers can remind you to do what you planned. While by definition there is no such thing as a good distraction for anxiety, an external trigger that reminds us to take a break can serve as a diversion that has been shown to ease physical pain or help control unhealthy cravings.
The right approach is to ask whether the external trigger is serving you, or are you serving it. If the prompt leads you to traction, keep it. If it leads you to distraction, eliminate it.
Hack back your smartphone.
Whether it’s to keep in contact with family, navigate around town, or listen to audiobooks, this miracle device in your pocket has become indispensable. It can also be a major source of distraction, but you can take back your smart phone in four steps:
- Remove the apps you no longer need.
- Remove apps that you like, but that you can use on your computer instead.
- Rearrange the remaining apps on your phone to reduce visual clutter.7
- Adjust your notification settings for each app.
Hack Back Your Feeds.
When it comes to distraction social media plays a huge role. Sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit are designed to send you endless external triggers. Facebook’s infinite scroll is particularly devilish, but you don’t have to fall prey to it. Several new tools are available that either eliminate the news feed (News Feed Eradicator) or unlock it only after you’ve done other, more important tasks (Todobook).
These tools work across several platforms, allowing you to use apps the way you want, rather than the way their companies want. (For more of my favorite tools for hacking back, see here).