Do you remember what it feels like to be in a state of flow?

When you forget seemingly everything around you, you can work at one task and not feel any need to deviate from it.

In a way, it probably isn’t news that we’ve all been aware of for a long time how social media and technology, predominantly our phones, are controlling our lives. 

Over the recent years, I have felt how the endless clutter on social media pages has taken over a large part of my life (despite not being a super active user). I’ve spent way too much time scrolling endlessly and mindlessly checking the websites for any bit of new information that would give me a little kick of instant gratification. The world seems too bland without a constant blip of joy or excitement from other people’s lives. On the other hand, I noticed how the constant pull into a different world would make me struggle to stay in the present and give it my full attention. There’ve been many studies showing that every time you get distracted and leave your current task to do something else, you need a substantial amount of time to get back to your old job. That constant change in concentration is taking away from your wellbeing, focus, and engagement. 

I really wanted to get back to this state of flow, where I’d tackle one task at a time. If this sounds like you, let me share the following tips with you. 

These are my browser extensions that you can install as add-ons and have helped me keep my eyes on the actual job.

1) DF Tube: Distraction-Free for YouTube (Chrome)

If you struggle to get your eyes off YouTube’s newsfeed and the video recommendations that pull you down its famous rabbit hole, then this is your option. DF Tube extension eradicates YouTube’s Newsfeed AND the video recommendations that pop up while you’re watching a video. You only see what you actively search for or the video you want to watch. All the luring ideas are gone. Another great option is called Unhook – Remove YouTube Recommended Videos

2) Distraction Free mode Google Docs and Slides

Who is a Google Drive Fan? I recently found the extension Distraction Free mode Google Docs and Slides. There are two options – you can see nothing but your document and still see the browser Toolbar, or you can even go into Full-screen to only see your document. This is great if you want to write something without needing to click on anything.

3) News Feed Eradicator for Facebook

If you’re still scrolling Facebook, waiting for some important thing to happen (thanks to the pandemic that seems to be limited), you can install this extension on your browser. Instead of showing you its newsfeed, you see one quote – something for your brain to think about. You can still message people, visit groups, etc. so that the more useful functions stay visible.

This Eradicator now works on Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit as well!

There are obviously newsfeed eradicators for a lot more programs. I realized that the less clutter I see, the more concentrated I am. 

Insta Feed Eradicator (Chrome)

I’m not on Instagram much, but there is, of course, the option to limit what you see on Instagram as well. With this tool, you can select what section you want to have hidden: Feed, suggestions for people to follow, or stories.

I think that this is a beautiful as well as desired and even necessary state, and despite trying to get there myself, I’ve taken up the help of some programs that I’d like to share. The following are browser extensions that you can install as add-ons on your computer to help you concentrate on one task at a time:

Focus 45

You could also give this extension a try. It lets you block certain websites for 45 minutes at a time so that you can use that to focus. For me, this feels like a better idea than completely blocking certain websites throughout the day. The Pomodoro activity is also a helpful technique, and you find apps on your phone to help you work in a 25 min on (work), 5 min off (break) rhythm. 

Another useful addition are Binaural Beats or Playlist that specialize in music and sound that help you focus. You can find apps in the app stores or playlist on YouTube, Spotify etc.

Finally, I hope this doesn’t even need to be said, but make sure you have an ad blocker!  I’ve never been one to purchase, even less so click on ads, but I still enjoy browsing without seeing them. Sometimes you might need to accept ads to visit the website, which you can do by adding exceptions. It does keep your eyes on the content rather than all the distractions.

When it comes to using my phone, I find it best to limit the time I spend on certain apps. Of course, you can always go around the time limit, but you become more aware of how much time you’re really spending on such apps. I have a timer on YouTube for 30 minutes, and I am trying not to go over it unless I’m watching a long educational program, e.g., a podcast episode. Even then, if I’m at home, I’d then head over to my computer (which has the distraction-free feed extension installed 😉 ) and continue watching it from there. It makes you more consciously aware of your time used on this app. 

Last but not least, putting your phone out of reach or sight has proven the best strategy for me. I feel exhilarated if I forget where I actually left my phone (which is rare but slowly becoming more and more common). “Do not disturb” is a great function, and if you’re still getting notifications, turn them off! I also turned off notifications for work-related messages because, ultimately, you cannot always be giving your attention to things that can wait half an hour. 

I hope some of these ideas can help you be more present and aware of how you spend your time on screens.

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