Four Simple Behaviors to Protect Your Focus and Free Your Time from Behavior Scientist, Steven Michael Crane

1. One choice that will eliminate 1,000 other choices with digital distractions

  1. Turn off mobile notifications for apps that you really don’t need to get up-to-the-second information from
  2. Install Leechblock for Firefox or StayFocusd for Chrome and set up limits on the sites where you regret spending too much time (news, social media, etc.)
  3. Install the News Feed Eradicator to keep access to functional aspects of Facebook, but without the News Feed.
  4. Activate the built-in tools, Screen Time on iOS or Digital Wellbeing on Android, and set a recurring reminder or calendar event to take a couple minutes each Sunday to review your screentime from the past week and set limits to nudge you closer to what’s actually important for you
  5. And of course there’s plenty more solutions through our tool at https://screentime.stanford.edu/.

2. One choice that will eliminate 1,000 other choices around when to read online content

  1. Searchable, full-text archive of everything you read online
  2. Tags for topic organization
  3. Easy way to share to individuals or to your curated recommendation list (mine’s here)
  4. And most importantly to me, it will read the articles to you as an audio playlist. Using this, I’ve eliminated almost all screen time spent reading online content. I can instead listen to them while I commute, clean the house, or workout. The built in voices are quite good!
  1. Copy-paste the text of the article and email it to yourself
  2. Open the email on your iPhone
  3. Use TWO fingers and swipe DOWN from the very top edge of your screen
  4. Siri will start reading it to you (and you can play/pause/adjust speed)
  5. (If that didn’t work, go to Go to Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content to adjust the setting for that)

3. One choice that will eliminate 1,000 other choices in your morning routine.

  1. You could try this: Whatever your most common outfit is (whether you dress to work from home, the office, whatever), just get a bunch of versions (or copies) of that same outfit and never hesitate around what to wear in the morning.
  2. For example, I got rid of almost all my old socks and replaced them with 30 pairs of my favorite ones that I can wear 99% of the time. You never have to fold them or pair them up or worry about losing one.

4. One choice that will eliminate 1,000 other choices in your email inbox.

There’s a variety of ways to do it, but here’s my approach:

  1. Inbox: only messages from actual people or urgent alerts land here. This is where I spend 90% of my inbox time, and with these filters in place, it’s not difficult to reach inbox 0 here almost every day.
  2. P2 label (priority #2): newsletters I actually care about, company mailing lists, non-urgent alerts. Check this once or twice a day when you need a break from more mentally taxing activities (I do it as a mid-day break outside while I soak up some sunshine).
  3. P3 label (priority #3): everything else like information streams that I want to option to monitor, but do not require regular attention. If I’m busy, I can just ignore this stream entirely.
  1. Select all the messages you really don’t need at all, and unsubscribe from those
  2. Select all the messages that fall under P3, and set up a filter to automatically send those messages there
  3. Ditto for P2
  4. Then leave in the inbox whatever’s important, and work through that one as your main focus (using a “snooze” function will be crucial if you want to go for inbox 0)
P2 and P3 != 0

Don’t delay! Do one of the above now!

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Scientist of life. Lifelong student of successful aging and dying. Eternally curious. Grateful at heart.

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Steven Michael Crane

Steven Michael Crane

Scientist of life. Lifelong student of successful aging and dying. Eternally curious. Grateful at heart.

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