Distraction is the enemy of Attention…
Notifications and multitasking are destroying our attention spans and making us far less productive
By Stirling Campbell
Have you recently found yourself confused, hours after clicking a Facebook/Twitter/iMessage/Email or other notification, ending up in the Wikipedia Rabbit-hole, perhaps browsing a few of your friends cute dog pictures and suddenly it’s nearly 4pm and you have hardly got anything done?
Do you find it difficult to focus through the length of the average movie, or even a longer television show?
Are you able to watch said movie or TV show without obsessively checking your phone? Or are you being pinged every 5-15 minutes by a group chat, a talkative friend or a torrent of work and other related notifications?
I have an answer.
With a few preparations, you can improve on Apple’s “Do Not Disturb” functionality and bring it forward into another mode—that promotes focus—over distraction and multitasking.
I use this myself now for…
• Reading an eBook on a device, watching content on-device or other screens and stages, studying
• Working out
• Meditation or other similar practises
The most important first step, is to make sure you have a good list of Favourite People in your Contacts—these people are able to “break through” Do Not Disturb mode—I have set mine up with family members and friends that may need me in an emergency, and they are aware that they have this privilege. Their iMessages will not disturb your Focus Session, but calls and FaceTime will.
If you Force Touch-press the Phone App icon on your iPhone, you can quickly reach them as well; and they will be in your Widgets area too if you desire.
If you don’t setup your favourites properly, you might miss an emergency call, this step should not be skipped.
The core of “Focus Mode” is just one switch, under Settings-Do Not Disturb, scroll down to the bottom and switch the SILENCE option from “Only when iPhone is locked” to “Always”.
Now, notifications will be kept in the swipe-down notification centre, and not constantly dip down from the top—distracting you from your original task or just enough so that you lose attention and go off-track.
Another option which I recommend, but might not be for you; is switching off the iPad split-screen function; I find it to be the antithesis of iOS, which is meant to be for doing one thing at a time in my opinion. Since this feature debuted, I often accidentally swiped the screen across which is annoying after the 50th time and I have not missed the split screen feature; found under Settings-General-Multitasking, and turn off the “Allow Multiple Apps” switch.
If you leave the Swipe gestures on, you can easily swipe between two apps if you choose, but it is far harder to accidentally trigger as you need four fingers rather than one.
If you have an Apple Watch, the new Theatre Mode is brilliant; if you switch this on as well you won’t be disturbed at all—and even better you can trigger “Focus Mode” far easier—swipe up for the Watch’s Control Centre and tick the Moon and the Comedy/Tragedy masks to activate both DND and Theatre.
That’s it, you can wear you watch to bed and track your sleep without fear of sudden tiny-sun on your wrist disturbing you and anyone else in the bedroom…
If you need to use the watch as a light or to check the time you just have to touch the screen or either button. I often use this for when I’m working out or walking around and listening to music and your friend(s) are messaging like crazy, distracting or annoying as the music volume keeps dropping to let you know another message has come through.
As I wrote this, I received approximately 100-250 notifications, too many to count.
Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter if you appreciate or start using this feature and if you have any further recommendations or criticism…
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