How to stay focused – distraction-free programming in a connected world

August 13, 2019
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Editors Note: We have gazillion devices connected around us. That makes focusing on a task such a chore. In today's post, Gwen Faraday senior software engineer and international speaker shares her tips to stay focused and get things done.

I,  like many programmers (I assume), struggle with focusing and staying on task. Every hour of every day it seems I am being bombarded with texts, emails, messages, tweets, and in-person interruptions. Not to mention all of the blog sites I like to check and the new videos from my favorite YouTubers.

This has become a greater challenge as I consult, travel, and work remotely frequently. Here are some of the ways I have been able to maximize my output vs time efficiency and minimize interruptions.

App/Website Blocker

Staying focused while working on the computer is never easy, but it has gotten ‘easier’ for me by using app and website blocker programs. Right now, I use a Mac for most of my work, and I also travel with one. Thus, some of the app specific information here is for Mac users. I also want to note here that desktop apps are better than browser plugins because they block across all browsers and desktop apps as well (plus if you are an app developer, you probably have enough plugins in your browser already). ?

So here are a few apps to help keep you focused:

I use these types of tools to create a schedule for myself and block out all news, social media, sports, and tech blog sites for most of the day. The Focus app (mentioned above) is nice because I can denote certain break times?—?sometimes I really do need to look at social to grab some info real quick so this gives me flexibility.


I used to have so many social apps on my phone. I got rid of them years ago?—?Facebook, Twitter, and the whole lot. Now I have only educational apps, useful things like maps, and apps for phone calls/SMS/chat.

Because chat and SMS messages are also distracting, I turned off notifications for them. I also turned off the ability to view them from my lock screen. This means I have to be very deliberate in unlocking my phone to look at messages.

I even took this a step further and moved all messaging and phone apps away from my home screen. I have them in folders where I have to swipe over to a new screen and then open the folder to find the app. This has salvaged so much time that I used to spend in mindlessly opening apps. I also blocked any apps/tools from being available on the lock screen. I can only enter my passcode or use the camera.

Other Tips

I found myself typing in two or three letters of a blog or social site and then it would just pop up. It was too easy. It is harder to use it as a distraction if you have to type out the full URL. Plus you give yourself enough time to consciously change your mind.

These first two are phenomenal books that have changed my life and made me way more focused and productive.

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