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Getting too distracted by the web while working? Here's how you can take control

Having the web at your fingertips can be the best/worst thing in your life, but you can take control of it.

Image: Shutterstock/funkyfrogstock

IF YOU WORK with a computer, smartphone or tablet, chances are distraction is one of the biggest challenges you face on a day-to-day basis.

With so many causes for distraction, it’s difficult to keep focused on the task at hand. If that’s the case for you, here are some things you can do to combat that.

Cut down on tabs

As useful as they are, tabs are incredibly distracting. The more you have open, the less you’ll be able to focus on what you’re actually doing. It’s hard to keep your mind on the task at hand if you have your email accounts, Facebook and a number of other web pages open.

It’s best to keep the number of tabs open as low as possible, or set a max number (maybe between five to ten) so you stay focused. If you need to go to extremes, then a plugin like Max Tabs (Firefox) or xTab (Chrome) will help limit the number of tabs you can have open at any one time.

You have 111 tabs open Hopefully you're not this bad. Source: Pål Degerstrøm/Flickr

Make a list of what you need to do

The least technical piece of advice has you making a list of tasks for that day. Whether you use MS Word or a pen or paper, writing them down will keep you focused on what needs to be done.

The important part is not making a list, but breaking your day down into manageable chunks.

It’s best to limit each entry to smaller tasks – tasks that will take a half-hour or hour to do – instead of large ones that will take longer to complete. Not only does it become more manageable, you’ll be able to mark off items from your list faster which will give you a sense of achievement.

Notepad Art If writing down what you need to do helps, then do it. Source: Dr Stephen Dann/Flickr

Avoid (or ban) certain sites

Easier said than done, but unless your job is to be on Facebook all day, you can give certain sites a rest until you’re home. If you want to take it to an extreme, then something like StayFocusd (Chrome) can prevent you from visiting sites so you can stay focused.

Take regular breaks away from your computer

You can only focus on a task for so long and really, it’s not a good idea to stay on your computer all the time.

Not only do you lose focus later on, but when you use your computer to kill time or reward yourself, the line between work and play begins to blur, meaning you stay longer on it and the likelihood of you getting distracted increases.

Stop that by taking regular breaks away from your computer. For every 15 or 20 minutes working, think of that as a minute earned where you can step away from your desk and give your mind a break.

If you can, take time to disconnect 

Probably the greatest distraction is the web actually being there in front of you. If you’re doing something that doesn’t necessarily need an internet connection, then it’s better to turn it off temporarily and focus on what you need to do.

You can afford to disconnect for an hour or two if necessary so unless it’s something incredibly important, or you absolutely need to be on call, nothing bad is going to happen.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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