Modern technology puts you in touch with millions of people, which is a problem because many of them are assholes. Telemarketers, scammers, and the inverted royal structure which means that somehow Nigeria has more princes than citizens. The human brain feeds on input, but distractions have the same effect on your mind as rotten eggs has on your stomach – not only are they bad in themselves, but they can destroy the organ’s ability to do anything for hours.
A smart life is all about making the best of your resources, and that includes yourself. What’s the point in filtering your e-mail against spam when you leave your mind vulnerable to unwanted phone calls?
The smartest worker I ever met was a miner, blasting rubble miles under the surface, who described his perfect workday: “At the start of our shift I tell my partner what we’re going to do, at the end I say ‘well done.’ Anyone talking to me in between is costing me money.”
We’ve found tools, techniques and attitudes that work well against unwanted interruptions.
Do Not Call Registry
The only do not call list worth using is official and federally enforced. The National Do Not Call Registry can and should be contacted at 1-888-382-1222 or at their website.
It is vital that you don’t just Google “Do Not Call” and enter your phone number. Think about it: that’s the most perfect way for anyone to collect numbers which will be answered, because the owners care enough to register them. Likewise, never respond to text or e-mail messages which ask you to “reply to unsubscribe”; that’s distraction judo – they’re using your own efforts to avoid distractions to guarantee that you’ll get them.
Unfortunately the Do Not Call Registry (and other country’s equivalents, like Canada’s Do Not Call List) are still professionally useless. And we mean that literally: while houses suffer from loopholes for charity organizations, pollsters, and any company you’ve had any dealings with in the last year and a half, businesses lines have no protection at all. Which is terrible, because it’s while you’re at work that distractions really cost you.
Which is why we’ve found more ways to avoid interruptions.
Fool The Robocallers
If you can’t rely on the government to stop the relentless telemarketing companies, who can you use? Simple: the relentless telemarketing companies! The first rule when answering an “unidentified” number is not to say a word: if they don’t say anything for five seconds either, it’s because you’re connected to a robot. Robocallers are designed to dial numbers all day and only bother their call center employees when they get a live one. Think about how insulting that is: They’re not just interrupting you, they think you’re so worthless that they won’t even bother their minimum wage phone-monkey with your existence until they’re sure you’re on the line. But, staying quiet (which is only a good idea when someone you don’t know is trying to find you) and then hanging up makes some robots remove you from their database.
You can take it one step further with “Disconnected”, an iPhone app simulating a disconnected line. If your landline is poisoned by the presence of telemarketers (or anyone else you never want to hear from), hit “Home” and “Disconnected” to play the frequency of an unconnected line down the phone. It also works for unwanted iPhone calls – play the sound through speaker mode and it has the same effect. Robocallers recognize this tone and permanently remove you from their database.
Filter Your Phone
Call Block Unlimited should be standard in all cellphones – until then, Android owners have the best anti-distraction system ever installed in telecommunications.
It doesn’t just block known scammers, it lets you set up extremely specific lists and even deal with calls you don’t want at just that moment. You don’t have to block them forever – just select “pick up and hang up” or “forward to voicemail,” meaning you don’t even have to be distracted by ten seconds of ringing! Powerful tools including area code blocking and lists which can be activated or de-activated: meaning you can separate work and play very accurately. No more calls from the boss at the pub, or calls from friends when you’re working.
Avoid every distraction on your desktop with Quiet Hours, free software from LifeHacker and one of the smartest programs we’ve ever seen.
It sets a time limit on distracting programs, which is far more powerful than you might think. Some say “I just turn the instant messaging apps off”, but that leaves you wondering what you might miss and wanting to turn it back on for a second “just to check.” Which is the worst possible result, as that momentary interruption breaks your train of thought and takes you out of the zone. The automated countdown relaxes your restless brain, letting you know that you will see all your messages at a certain time – and reminding you that you’ve chosen not to until then for very good reasons.
You can take on every idiot one-on-one, defeating them with computer programming and verbal sparring, but when things get serious you’ve got to deploy hardware. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean action-movie hardware, but we’ve got the next best thing: the TeleZapper.
The TeleZapper sits on your incoming phone lines and detects incoming robocallers before they even reach your phone – and more importantly, its distracting ringer. This is especially important for new small businesses: a brand new business number appearing on the listings is the telemarketers treasure, while every interruption costs the small staff significant amounts of time and mood. The TeleZapper can cover all incoming lines with a single unit.
It’s the nuclear option in avoiding telemarketer distractions. And after your tenth telemarketer, nuclear weaponry is the very least thing you’ll want to deploy.
Image credit: GeorgeDolgikh / iStockphoto