Eliminate distractions and get more work done

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A lot of us suffer from a particular affliction.  It’s called distraction.

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I might notice this more than some people because I work from a home office.  I can be completely focused on doing something, such as building a website or diagnosing a computer that isn’t working properly.  Then something happens.  Usually it’s an email that comes in.  My computer notifies me that I have a new email, so I take a second and see who sent it and if it needs my reply.  Then I do a quick Facebook check and end up making a comment or two on there.  And as long as I’m on the computer, might as well check to see if there are any new YouTube videos on the channels where I subscribe.



And before you know it, I’ve spent 20-30 minutes on activities that are of no value to me or to my clients.  That’s crazy.  But it’s very easy to do.  And this is becoming more of a problem not just with people that work from home, but even those in an office.  A lot of these outside distractions that come in through the computer are now seen more frequently in the workplace, and it’s something we all need to fight against.

It might seem that the solution is simple.  Just don’t get distracted.  Easy, right?

“Focus, Scott!  Ignore that email chime and that funny video that just popped up.  Just stay focused on your work!”  That might work for a little while.  And I find that I do tend to be more focused when I have a deadline and no choice but to complete a certain project.  But the “self pep talk” doesn’t really work in the long run.

For me, I have found a different solution that is working great.  I’m using a free program called Cold Turkey.  You can get it at GetColdTurkey.com.

Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey uses self-imposed limitations.  In other words, since I can’t always trust myself to ignore the distracting websites and programs that want my attention, I use this program to lock me out of them for a certain period of time.

You can download the program from the website mentioned above, and I found that installing it did not include any sneaky stuff to watch out for (you should still pay close attention though, because that could always change).

After it is installed and you run it, you just need to answer a few questions.

First, what websites do you want to be blocked from visiting?  You just check the ones that apply.

Cold Turkey

 

Next, click on the “Programs” tab and add any programs you want to have blocked (such as Outlook or any games you might like to play).

Then, there is the “Custom” tab that allows you to enter any websites that distract you, that might not be in their standard list of sites.  I tend to spend too much time on Craigslist, so I put that in there.  I also found that you can’t just put the primary domain, “craigslist.org” – you also need to put the subdomain of where you are.  For me, that means “tampa.craigslist.org”.

Cold Turkey

 

Now that you have chosen what distractions to block, you need to determine how long the block will last.  You just enter the date and time – that’s when the blocks will come off and you can access those things again.  You can set it for a few minutes into the future, or a few weeks.  I checked on how far in advance you could set it, and the maximum is a month.

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After you have set the date and time for the block to stop, click the “Go Cold Turkey” button.  As you see, there is a little checkbox that will allow you to update your Facebook status one last time before you are locked out.

Cold Turkey

And even after THAT – you still get one more confirmation screen so you can back out:

Cold Turkey
But once you click that last button, you’re committed.  However, you might not see it go into effect unless you close your browser window(s) and open them again.

Once the block is in effect, what happens?  Well, here’s what you see when you try to access a blocked site, such as Facebook:

blocked Facebook

This will be the result for any web browser you use, whether it’s Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, whatever.

You might be thinking, “Ah, I’ll get around that – I’ll just restart my computer to disable the block”.  Well, first of all, now you’re wasting time trying to figure out how to waste more time.  The whole purpose is to eliminate the distractions and get on with the real work.  Anyway, restarting the computer does not get rid of the block.  In fact, you would have to be pretty computer savvy to be able to get past the block while it’s in effect.  At least that’s what I gather by reading about it.  I have not pursued ways to subvert it, because I want to use it to my advantage.

I find the psychological effect of this pretty amazing.  Once I have this software blocking me from going to time-wasting websites, I feel sort of “free”.  At that point, it’s not a matter of my self-discipline keeping me on task, because going to those other sites is not even an option.  What am I going to do, just sit and stare at the screen?  It enables me to really focus my thoughts on the work I have to do, and get it done.

Cold Turkey is only available for Windows computers.  However, if you use a Mac, there is a similar program called Self Control.  You can get it at SelfControlApp.com.

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