How do you focus?
Our theme this month is focus— more specifically, how do you focus? When you’re managing your own time and jumping around the city, sometimes it’s hard to settle into a space and get down to it (a struggle I know all too well). But when it comes down to it, it’s all about finding the right work style and what suits you. Here are some strategies to try.
Plan Out Your Day
This can mean anything like packing your lunch the night before or planning your route to work. Personally, I’m a master list maker, so I love making my to-do lists at the end of the previous workday so I can just jump in the next morning.
Make a list of only 2-3 things for you to accomplish that day. You can keep your day-to-day tasks but really keep your to-do short, which is harder than it sounds. According to Becoming Minimalist, it can help you feel less overwhelmed and give you better concentration because you always have the finish line in site.
I did a version where I had three goals but listed facets for each task, like drafting a blog post might include sourcing images, researching, writing the post. Each of these points would be one point on a to-do list for me.
Do the Creative Thing First
I had a tendency to clean my inbox first thing, but this is actually a waste of morning energy and will just bog you down in replies. Our brains are so fresh in the morning that we’d get better results by tackling the creative or focus-heavy projects first. Save menial tasks like emails and scheduling for the afternoon.
I’ve had a lot of people suggest the Pomodoro Technique— short intervals of focus time spaced out with breaks. It helps you chip away at a big project, but it also keeps your brain fresh because you work within shortened deadlines.
It also really shows the importance of breaks. Trucking through a task can actually take longer because you’re using half your capacity, whereas a short break can refresh you mentally and up your focus.
Multitasking has killed our concentration, sadly. (We can also blame social media.) Think of concentration as a muscle, because the more we multitask, the shorter our attention span becomes. Good news: you can build it back up! If you get bored during a task, try the Pomodoro Technique or schedule your own bursts of focus time. You can work up from there and make the work portions longer as you go.
Get the right tools
I usually place my phone face down to stop the distractions, but if you’re tempted to scroll through Twitter rather than work on that new email drip campaign, maybe try apps like Freedom or Self Control to block those pesky sites for a time. If you’re a fan of the Pomodoro Technique, you can also use Focus Booster on your phone to track your work into handy time sheets.
Sometimes, I’ll work alongside a friend to keep me in check, but it has to be the right "coworker." Maybe your best friend isn't the right fit for this role, but you're new work acquaintance could be.
When they’re busy, then I don’t want to distract them and keep focused on my own work. It also encourages me to change up my day with focus time, breaks, and moments of collaboration, which keeps everything fresh. Also, it's just more fun to focus together. Try the Croissant Community Board for new meet ups to find a cowork group.
Let's avoid the lure of the Facebook newsfeed— how do you focus?
Photo courtesy of @intheworldseven