Distractions negatively impact productivity and quality of work. Discover which websites distract us most and how to block distracting websites so that you can focus on what you do best.
Gloria Mark, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, studies the effects of interruptions. Her studies observed workers in the workplace and timed people’s activities to the second to monitor their attention and focus. They found “about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.”
How many times are you interrupted by an app or a website in a day? How much time in addition to those 23 minutes do you spend on the distracting app or website itself? If you find you never have enough hours in a day to get your work done, consider how many times you get distracted and thrown off task.
Cyrus Foroughi from the Applied Performance Research Lab at George Mason University conducted multiple studies on the effects of interruptions on quality of work. Foroughi tested three groups of students.
- Those who were interrupted while writing
- Those who were interrupted while creating an outline
- Those who were not interrupted
The conclusions were clear and came out the same after multiple tests. Foroughi says, “No participant scored higher when interrupted compared to the no-interruption condition… Nearly everyone who was interrupted did worse. In fact, 96 percent of the participants performed worse, and 4 percent stayed the same.”
Personal preference matters. Test yourself to see which apps or specific websites you consistently spend the most amount of time on. Which are there purely to entertain (distract) you? Which are there for procrastination? Which do you actually need for work?
Monitor your screen time and set time limits. It’s very possible you’re spending more time in front of a screen than you know. Rather than feeling guilty about it, it’s important to keep in mind that social media apps hook you by design. Moment, a free app that calculates screen time, points out, “These apps are designed to grab and keep your attention for as long as possible. There are 1000 designers on the other side of that app whose job depends on capturing your eyeballs.”
Use time tracking extensions to measure precisely how much time you’re spending on distracting apps and websites. Check everything, including your iPhone, iPads, smartwatch, and any other smart devices. Run your experiment at no cost using a time tracker that offers a free trial.
💡 Learn more about monitoring distractions in How to Not Get Distracted When You're Working Online.
Distractions come in all shapes and websites. Here are some you should watch out for.
- Social Media (facebook.com, twitter.com, pinterest.com, instagram.com, etc.)
- Media (netflix.com, youtube.com, hulu.com, imdb.com, etc.)
- Shopping (ebay.com, etsy.com, amazon.com, etc.)
- News (bbc.com, forbes.com, economist.com, nbcnews.com, cnn.com, etc.)
- Bitcoin (coinbase.com, blockchain.info, coinmarketcap.com, etc.)
- Sports (espn.com, foxsports.com, cbssports.com, mlb.com, etc.)
- Blogs (techcrunch.com, mashable.com, medium.com, lifehacker.com, etc.)
- Aggregators (reddit.com, digg.com, fark.com, etc.)
Don’t forget about your email (gmail.com, mail.google.com, mail.yahoo.com, etc.) You likely need your email for work, but that doesn’t mean you need to be at your email’s command every second of the day. Choose specific times of the day that are dedicated to checking email so that it never dominates your time.
💡 View a full list of top offenders in our article The Most Distracting Websites And How to Avoid Them.
You don’t have to do it alone. If self-control is a struggle for you, use a website blocker to supplement your willpower. A website blocker blocks the websites you find most distracting. Several inexpensive apps are available that can block websites during the working hours you specify so you can stay focused. You can set up and enforce daily, weekly, or weekend schedules that block distractions and follow your specific working habits.
There are many options out there (and we’re a little biased). Focus was built with a passion for productive work and indie development. Focus blocks distracting sites for Mac so that you’re never interrupted by a notification letting you know an acquaintance from high school updated their Facebook story. Block any website or application to establish productive bursts of work. You can change the settings on blocked sites at any time to add new ones or change your preferences. There’s a built-in Pomodoro timer, too.
Not on Mac? No problem. FocalFilter is another website blocking tool specifically designed for Windows.
Continue reading for productivity tools, resources, and advice so that you never lose focus.