Everyone does it.
You start off with an email, maybe it's a newsletter. It takes you to an article to read and you read it. You get some good ideas and like what the author wrote, so you check her out.
She's on Twitter! You decide you should follow her.
You log into your Twitter account and see that someone you follow has posted a video you just have to watch on YouTube. You check out that video and then the "videos you might like" shows you a few more you just have to watch. So, you do.
All of a sudden a meeting alert pops up right in front of your browser.
You've just lost 45 minutes of your life you won't get back.
How do you regain focus and get the work done you needed to? Here are four ideas:
1. Close your email program.
My company, VerticalResponse, is an email marketing service provider, so I cringe when I say this. But sometimes you have to not be wed to your email. Block one hour off every day and close the window of your email client.
2. Turn off alerts (instant message, phone, etc.).
I wrote an Inc. article earlier this year about how much I dislike phones and IM disrupting meetings, but sometimes they just plain disrupt your day. If you don't want to be completely unreachable, turn off your IM or alerts during a different hour than when you close your email down. Then you won't hyperventilate at the thought of being totally disconnected.
3. Realize when "research" turns into surfing.
Sometimes I think the Internet was introduced to us by the pharma companies that hawk ADD drugs. One simple little Web page can rob hours of my life, but hey, here I go "liking" my friend's cat pictures on Facebook and watching the baby laughing video ... again!
My day usually starts off on Daily Beast for some quick news, then I head over to TechCrunch to read up on all of my favorite start-ups. I pop over to Inc.com where I'm sure to learn something that betters my business day. But does it end there? Never. Here's what I've been doing lately: I force myself get up from my desk to "break" the habit, and walk out of my office to talk to people. Works every time.
4. Limit the number of windows on your desktop.
My husband has no less than 20 tabs open in his browser at one time. I don't know how he does it. On top of it, with the ease of Apple's desktop dock you can have tons of files staring at you at any given time. Here's my solution: Every Friday, I take a moment to close down some windows I haven't used in a few days, get rid of files on the dock, and clean up my desktop. Monday will look like a different day!
Do you sometimes feel like you have digital ADD? What do you do to focus? I'd love to know.