Google Doc | Author: Mati Roy | Created: 2018-09-02 | Published: 2019-01-08 | Updated: 2020-12-24 (Minor update: 2021-10-14)| Importance: 5 | Confidence: mostly ideas

How to control your attention?

if you spend a lot of time at the computer

See also


Some of the general improvements I try to make is to:

Browser extensions such as adblocks can often be useful for that.

The following sections and tools are put roughly in order of importance to me.


AdBlocks can generally be customized to filter any parts of the web you don’t want to see — not just ads, but also things like suggested content. For example, Paul Christiano uses it to << block "related content," "next stories," the whole youtube sidebar, everything on Medium other than the article, the gmail sidebar, most comment sections, etc.>> (source: Ten small life improvements).

I also use Google Doc and bookmarks to note articles that I might want to read, instead of reading them now. When I check back on the list later, I often realize most of the articles shouldn’t be prioritized.

Following are things I haven’t implemented myself, but can see being useful.

You can use the Chrome extension Delayed Gratification with a list of attention grabbing websites so that it will put a 15 seconds countdown before you see the website, hence making a more conscious decision about whether you want to consult the website.

You can use the Chrome extension Tab Wrangler to “[a]utomatically [close] inactive tabs and [make] it easy to get them back”.


I use a time tracker to track where I spend my attention


Hide content

*block only Facebook ads (instead of all ads)

Control notifications


Other extensions I’m not using currently:

Extreme version

Requirement: having a good workflow with emails




Search Engines

This Chrome extension allows to hide a list of websites.

Some websites you might want to block to control your attention are: click-baity websites, websites that require login, websites that blocks users with ad blockers.

I’m hosting a list of websites blocking users with ad blockers. You’re welcome to use it, and contributions are appreciated.

Fun fact: this is essentially an ad blocker blocker blocker. It blocks websites that blocks users with ad blockers.


I try using only one inbox for all my emails, and maintain an Inbox 0 most of the time. I archive or snooze emails once read.

I use the new Snooze feature if you want to be reminded about an email later.

I have a filter for newsletters (see image), at least if you’re subscribed to a lot of newsletters that you don’t always read and don’t judge important. I keep a Google Doc with a list of newsletters, and which I’ve read that I can consult when I want to catch up with some topics.


I put events in Google Calendar, which I try to look just before and / or after going to bed. I also use Google Calendar notifications.

I put tasks in a Google Doc (with specific next step and/or bottleneck if the task feel aversive, and group similar tasks to do them in series). I suggest having a reliable way to remind you to consult this list periodically.

Following are things I haven’t implemented myself, but can see being useful.

Quoting Paul Christiano on avoiding email inbox: << I often need to write or look up emails during the day, which would sometimes lead me to read/respond to new emails and switch contexts. I've mostly fixed the problem by leaving gmail open to my list of starred emails rather than my inbox, ad-blocked the "Inbox (X)" notification, and pin gmail so that I can't see the "Inbox (X)" title. >> (source: Ten small life improvements)

Quoting on facilitating unsubscribing: << Instantly see a list of all your subscription emails. Unsubscribe easily from whatever you don't want. >> (see:

boxbe has a few features. Quoting one on reducing unwanted emails << Boxbe empowers you to choose which businesses and contacts can reach your inbox. Anybody who isn’t on your guest list is automatically asked to verify that they are an actual person. This means less spam for you. >> (see:


Some people are often late to meeting, and make you wait long periods of time. If you dislike that, to reduce this problem, I suggest having people book you in your calendar with an app such as Google Calendar (available with a Google Workspace subscription). You can then join the Google Meet room at the time of the meeting. After X minutes, if the person hasn’t shown up, you can cancel the meeting on Google Calendar, which will give you an option to send a notification with a message — you can say you invite the person to reschedule you given they weren’t available. For a client-contractor relationship, I think it’s generally fair to charge for this time.

I recommend not being reachable during tasks unless in case of emergency, as this increases stress and reduces focus, at least for me. I still like fast communication though, and will generally look at my emails between tasks — so many times per day.

Further reading

Noticing the Taste of Lotus