Focus, Damn it! Focus!
“The saints, too, had wandering minds. The saints, too, had constantly to recall their constantly wandering mind-child home. They became saints because they continued to go after the little wanderer, like the Good Shepherd.” Peter KreeftI don’t think I quite fall into the ‘saint’ category, but I am happy to hear that they, too, battled the tyranny of being distracted by the shiny objects that pass by us ever so frequently. As I was beginning to write this blog, I got distracted by looking at videos of Zach Galifianakis, Russell Brand, and child stars who experienced serious transformations. Just in case you need a distraction.
Now that’s a distraction!
Although, it did provide me with this topic.
Recently, I seem to be more challenged in determining my priorities and staying focused on them. I have sought out advice on this topic for the last few months and here are the tips that I have found useful.
- Create a ‘to do’ list first thing when you get to your desk. Doing it at the end of the day doesn’t work for me as this just makes me feel bad for all I didn’t get done. The beginning of the day is just that: a new beginning.
- Determine when you are most productive and make an appointment with yourself at that time. Set a 10 minute advance alert and a 5 minute alert so you can set aside whatever you are doing for what you have determined a priority.
- Shut down email and turn off your phone. I am dead serious on this. People can wait.
- OK, if you absolutely cannot turn these things off, set them up so you can differentiate the important messages from those that can wait.
- Or, even better, keep your phone out of sight to stay more focused. Nicholas Carr in the Wall Street Journal wrote about researchers who asked students to place their phones in front of them; stow their phones in their pockets or handbags; or put their phones in a different room. Striking results. “The subjects whose phones were in view posted the worst scores, while those who left their phones in a different room did the best. The students who kept their phones in their pockets or bags came out in the middle. As the phone’s proximity increased, brainpower decreased.” So to increase your brainpower to focus, put your phone in a different room.
- Let those around you know this time is important and to respect it. You’ll be a good model for them if you can hold yourself accountable to sticking with this.
- Find someone else who can be accountable with you.
- Know that we can’t really stay focused for too long. Start with 30 minutes of focus on the subject and set a timer.
“Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible, then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.” Franz Kafka