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3 ways to stay focused and eliminate smartphone distractions

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Today was weights day. 🏋️

I don't like lifting weights - it's boring.

As I headed out to the garage this morning to start my workout, I knew I only had 45 minutes to finish. I had a morning meeting and wanted to eat and shower before it started.

After a few sets, my friends from home text thread blew up.

Of course, Max, dressing up as the Cookie Monster for Halloween, was more interesting than doing split squats.

Nearly 10 minutes went by before I snapped back to the present moment.

I remembered my goal of running a 50k ultra marathon next May, and the work I need to put in to beat my previous time.

In order to finish the workout and be ready for my meeting, I needed to focus.

With my big vision in mind, I walked back into the house, put my phone on the counter, went back outside, and knocked out my workout. ✅

With the small tweak of putting my phone in a different environment, I removed the "cookie" that I could not resist "eating".

My phone can be my best tool and my worst enemy at the same time.

However, the morning was a success and I discovered a new tool for my toolbox.

Today, you will learn three ways to eliminate the distractions caused by your smartphone. These include:

  • removing your phone from your physical environment

  • specific settings built into your phone, like do-not-disturb

  • rearranging your phone's home screen

By using just one of these techniques, you can regain your focus and get more done in a shorter period of time.

Let's dive in.

Why is my phone so distracting?

Smartphones are a part of daily life. They can be our greatest tool and also our worst enemy.

Ring-ring. Ping! Bzzzzzzt.

The notifications we receive on our phones distract us from what we are doing. So does simply having your phone faceown on your desk.

Whether it is sending emails, reading an article, or lifting weights, our smartphones, sometimes, slow us down.

In order to fully focus on a task, we use a part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex.

When we receive a notification from our phone, a different part of the brain lights up, the parietal lobe.

Unfortunately, humans can't really use both parts of the brain at the same time.

Even having your phone on silent isn't a solution. According to a study published in The Harvard Business Review,

individuals who completed tasks while their phones were in another room performed the best...In last place were those whose phones were on their desks.

People who work with their phones face down on their desks are less likely to be distracted by notifications.

However, in the back of their mind, they know their phone is there.

Even these small thoughts of, 'Oh, I am going to check my phone. Wait, no, I am focusing' is enough of a distraction to transition our thinking from the prefrontal cortex to the parietal lobe.

How many hours do you spend on your smartphone each week?

  • <1

  • 1-2

  • 2-3

  • 3+

Three ways to eliminate smartphone distractions

Number 1

Put your phone in a different room before you need to focus on a task.

This is the most effective and powerful technique.

It's simple and free, and almost everyone can do it.

Going to the gym? Leave your phone in the car or in a locker.

Completing a project with a looming deadline? Put your phone in the kitchen.

At the office? Give your phone to a coworker.

If this isn't enough to eliminate the temptation, consider buying a lock box with a timer.

A white male with long black hair, wearing a black jacket, standing and smiling at the camera with a green background.

Number 2

Use specific settings to eliminate notifications

Do-not-disturb is a powerful feature.

You can turn it on for a specific amount of time, schedule it to turn on at certain times, and even allow certain notifications to come through so that you don't miss an emergency.

You can also manually turn off notifications for individual apps such as email, Facebook, and Instagram.

When you download most apps, notifications are automatically turned on. Take a moment to check out the 'settings' section of your phone and turn off the notifications you truly do not need.

Number 3

Rearrange your phone's home screen.

How often do you grab your phone to read an email and find yourself scrolling through TikTok, or some other social media app, instead?

Consider which apps are most important for you to access on your phone screen.

Next, move the others to the second page.

In reality, I only need 'phone' and 'text messages' on my home screen.

Yes, it is a little annoying to swipe left to access my email or Instagram but this saves me countless hours of being distracted over the course of a year.


We explored three powerful strategies to overcome smartphone distractions and enhance your focus. By implementing just one of these techniques, you can reclaim your productivity and achieve more in less time.

Whether it's relocating your phone to another room, utilizing do-not-disturb settings, or reorganizing your phone's home screen, these methods can make a significant difference.

If you want individualized support implementing a phone management system to increase your productivity, consider booking a free consult to get individualized and actionable advice on how you can do it using the link below.

Stay Engaged

About the author

Eric Kaufmann, M.Ed is a Professional Educational Therapist and Certified Executive Function Coach. He is the Co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, an online adult executive function coaching company designed to guide adults in overcoming disorganization, procrastination, and productivity roadblocks so they can unlock their potential. Eric is also the founder of Elevate Learning Solutions, an Educational Therapy practice located in San Clemente, CA, that guides students with neurological differences toward becoming independent and confident students and self-leaders.

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About 👋

Upskill Specialists was founded when two former special education teachers turned executive function coaches decided that adults need tools and coaching to improve their workplace skills and feel confident and empowered. Our mission is to ensure every adult with EF challenges has access to high-quality coaching services. 

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