Managing Distractions

I have found it very easy to take advantage of the vast opportunities afforded by the internet and networked devices; I have found it much more difficult to manage their downsides. Despite knowing that humans are terrible multitaskers, it is all too easy for me to get distracted by notifications (even work-related ones) when I’m trying to concentrate. Here are a few apps and tricks that I’ve come across in my efforts to manage the flood of information that has come to characterize our day-to-day lives.

Tips and Tricks

The following tips are useful for occasions when an internet connection is needed, such as during our classes where Learning Catalytics will be used.


  • Disable notifications on your Mac (OSX 10.7 and above):

  • Use fullscreen mode to remove distracting windows (OSX 10.7 and above):

iPad (and other iOS devices)

  • Lock yourself into an app with Guided Access: Guided Access is a feature that will ‘lock’ you into a specific app and prevent you from seeing notifications, until you disable the feature with a passcode. This can be very useful in classes; by locking yourself into your note-taking app, you add an extra barrier to indulging in distractions. Here is an article explaining how to set up Guided Access on your device.
  • If you are on iOS 7, there is a new option in “Do Not Disturb” to suppress notifications even while your device is being used. Go to “Settings > Do Not Disturb > Silence > Always” to enable this setting, and tap the “Do Not Disturb” crescent moon button that appears when swiping up from the bottom of the screen.


  • Disabling application notifications: Each application in Windows has its own way of disabling notifications. If you have a particular application that frequently disturbs you, check the application’s preferences for notification information. This article walks through disabling notifications on Microsoft Outlook.
  • Windows 8: See this article for information on managing notifications for mail, messages, calendar events, and social media.


Below are apps that have been useful to me outside of class. They often involve disabling your internet connection, so they cannot be used during class sessions where Learning Catalytics is used.

Prevent incoming distractions

The following apps and plugins will disable your internet connection, or your access to a certain list of websites, for a specified period of time.

Create a Focused Note-Taking Environment

If you take notes using your computer or tablet, a number of writing applications exist that attempt to create a distraction-free environment. Here are a few for each platform: