Do you ever find ‘trying to focus’ is a contradiction in terms?
If you’re focusing so hard on focusing, you’re usually not focusing on the project you want to get done. Myself, I get wound up and cross at myself, more easily distracted even, when I’m concentrating on getting things done rather than simply concentrating.
I recently read this quotation by Tim Ferriss of 4-Hour Work Week fame and something inside me just went ‘yesssss!’ He said:
Focus on being productive instead of busy.
I’d go one step further and say simply:
Be productive instead of busy.
You see, if you’re putting your attention on the productivity, it’s often too much pressure and the creative genius is stifled.
Rather, just sit down and do it. Focus on the project, the writing, the editing, the task you need to get done. Then look back and see how productive you were when you weren’t worried about output and deadlines and the 57 other things you have to get done by lunchtime.
Here’s a few tips for devoting yourself to that one sole task you need done.
1 Stop multi-tasking
Easier said than done, right? Imagine, instead of switching tasks every few minutes, you had a colleague come and disturb you with questions or a toddler who needed attention. (Probably quite close to home if you’re a mum running her biz from home.)
Well, it’s the same. Only worse… We’re doing it to ourselves. Interrupting our own train of thought.
The trouble with switching focus is it takes a little while to settle back into what we’re doing, so we’re losing time each and every switch. Enter: stress.
Read more about the beauty of doing one thing at a time or monotasking from life coach Louise Thompson.
2 Declutter your immediate surroundings
Every time I tidy my desk, I get more done.
The last time I did it, my accountability buddy Jo encouraged me to find a place for every single item. Ever done that before? Woah! It was mindblowing.
If you’re anything like me, piles of paper and random stationery live on your desk. That was the place for every single item. But not now.
Each item has a home in storage, my desk is relatively clutter-free.
The people who have helped me most with this are Denise Duffield-Thomas and her abundance training at Lucky Bitch, Jo Ebisujima and her bitesize approach to tackling home and work set-up, and everything KonMari.
3 Block social media
I try to leave my phone in another room when I’m working. If it’s by my desk, it’s in my hand as I autopilot towards my social media apps and scroll scroll scroll. Enough!
On desktop, use Leechblock or Nanny for Chrome to stop yourself wandering off into the distraction playground that is Facebook, Insta, Twitter, Pinterest…
Need I go on?
Like literally switch off your computer and do as much of your thinking, creating, planning, organising away from the machine.
It might be the 21st century but it is still possible, you know.
PostIts are a thing.
As are notebooks.
5 Play with timing
Know when is your best most productive time to work and do your most important tasks in that time.
I have to say I’m not great at this, because I find implementing and sticking to a plan next to impossible. Strategising schmategising.
I’m still at an experimental phase with routines, but I do know not to try writing a blog post first thing on a Monday morning. And I’m sure as heck not gonna be doing my finances on a Friday afternoon.
6 Find quiet places to go work
Not easy when you work from home and have family making demands on you. Even harder when friends think they’ll pop round in the middle of the day. Impossible when you live in an quaked city with constant building work going on in your street for months on end. You get the picture. Find a place.
I love Shedworking’s featured home offices. Adorable.
Ah well. We can dream.
7 Carry a journal
Write ideas down as you go. Then you won’t have a head swimming with stuff when you’re doing something else. Getting things on paper and out of my head gives me peace of mind that I won’t forget it, so that I can enjoy the moment.
Right, I’m off to go write at the beach. Those photos of entrepreneurs with laptops on the beach are soooo not my reality most of the time, but every now and then I pretend!
SO funny you and I both quoted Tim Ferris in our latest blog posts!
We’re both thinking about busyness and switching off it seems.
Love that: Be productive instead of busy.
Great reminder xx
There must be something in the air! It’s a great quotation. It puts the whole language around ‘look busy’ into perspective. What is the point? Loved your article, Kerry. Thanks for coming over and checking mine out.