Yesterday was my first day of work and it. Was. Wonderful!!! Six straight hours of brainstorming? Making plans for South by Southwest? A to-do list that involves Twitter? I’ll take it!
One of the best things about my day was the amount of focus that was involved. I barely moved the entire day, because I was so into the discussions we were having. I wasn’t stopping every five minutes to “just Google it real quick.” I wasn’t checking my phone. I was actually working.
And I actually wasn’t just doing that because it was my first day. In the past year, I’ve really tried to stop multitasking. I’ve made a deal with myself that I will not check e-mail or Reader or any Web sites whenever I just don’t feel like working anymore; I let myself take a few “tech breaks” at set points throughout the day, but other than that, everything stays shut off.
In the spirit of new jobs, new semesters, or simply just the new year, let’s talk about staying focused.
Still with me? Or were you off Googling South by Southwest?
I get it. I know that it’s really hard not to follow links and to Google terms you don’t know and I know it takes willpower to close your e-mail. (But seriously. Close. Your. E-mail. Responding to e-mail creates more e-mail. So stop responding so quickly to everything unless it’s urgent. And stop responding to “Thanks!” with “Anytime!” so that the sender replies “Have a great weekend!” We were done at “Thanks!” End. It. Now.)
If you aren’t feeling strong in the fight against endless — mindless — distractions, here are two simple ways to help you just say “shhhhhh” while you’re working.
…to access the web, that is! If you can’t disconnect from the Internet completely because you need it for work, just create a little tech barrier with something like LeechBlock. This Firefox add-on lets you block certain sites, either all the time, or just during certain times. Tools like this (and there are many others!) are so useful. While I love social media, and checking Facebook is now, technically, my job, I think it’s a huge waste of time for many people.
(I also recommend using LeechBlock to set a bedtime on certain Web sites. Seriously, what are you doing on Facebook at 11:30 PM on a Tuesday night? Nothing important happens on Facebook after 10 PM. Networking? No. You’re not. You’re most likely hate-following or stalking your ex, which means you’re cutting into time you could be sleeping, so that you’d get up feeling refreshed and ready to actually network on the job tomorrow. Whatever you’re doing, you’re definitely giving yourself a reason to complain that you’re tired and “just can’t get up in the morning to work out.” A really shitty reason, but a reason all the same.)
Moving right along…
I cannot focus at work if I have a messy desktop (i.e., a cluttered workstation) or a stimulating desktop (i.e., a computer screen filled with vacation snap shots). The solution to the former is to go to the container store and to at least hide your clutter in cute plastic boxes; the solution to the latter is…Simple Desktops.
It’s exactly what it sounds like! And the desktops are perfect for keeping me focused and calm while I work, without being super cheesy. Here are some that I like!
They look great on a big screen, but also make a 13 inch laptop look way bigger (so be sure to pass them along to anyone you know with a size complex). There are a ton of designs to choose from, so be sure to check out the site for more options.
You know how you can feel really worn out on a Saturday night because you went out for breakfast, ran a bunch of errands, went to the mall, and then worked out? Or you can also feel really tired because you lay in bed all day watching videos on YouTube? It’s the same with feeling worn out at the end of a day of work. You can either feel worn out because you worked hard, faced challenges head-on, and focused on everything you did. Or you can feel super lethargic and unable to budge from the couch because you spent a 10-hour day — even though you’re only being paid for eight, because your job could be done in eight hours a day — multitasking. And your multiple tasks were “Outlook”…and “Facebook.”
Don’t work harder by making your brain juggle a YouTube video and a Power Point Presentation and a few blogs you check. Just work better by doing the work that’s in front of you, and only that.
Anyone with superhuman focus have good tips for staying distraction-free?