It’s a skill that requires continuous practice, or you’ll forget how.
In spite of all my planning, my weekly focus on a given project, and everything that I am doing to try and remain focused, I am still finding it difficult. I am constantly being distracted – not just with “social” media, but with a thousand other things as well. There’s always a new project to evaluate. There’s always new code to write when I should be focused on marketing. There’s always kids and the family. There’s always friends and coworking. There’s always something.
are the enemy of focus. But worse than distractions, is our own desire to continuously pay attention to them instead of what we should be doing. And it seems the more we let ourselves be distracted, the easier it is to become distracted. It’s as if we forget how to stay focused – our brains get rewired so that we want that constant “fix” of whatever the new, shiny thing is. We have to look. We have to take just a moment. We have to know…
Focus really is like any other skill that we have, which requires continuous practice and training. If we don’t regularly give ourselves time to focus, where we shut everything else out, our skill fades. We become less able to focus, quickly.
Practicing focus, then, is just as important as practicing any other skill.
25 Minutes At A Time
One technique that I find useful when I get myself in to a “distraction” mood, is the 25 minute timer of the pomodoro technique. The full technique involves a number of different practices, but the use of a 25 minute timer can be quite helpful, even without the rest of the pomodoro routine.
Find a timer… whether it’s a physical timer, an app, something on your phone, whatever it is – something that has an alarm that will go off after 25 minutes. Start the timer and start working. Do not do anything other than the work at hand for that 25 minute period. Force yourself. Be patient with yourself, as well. Don’t get upset when you find yourself wanting to be distracted. Instead, calm yourself down and get back to work. Tell yourself that it’s ok. You only have ## minutes left. You can hold out, and do the work until then.
When the alarm goes off, you have a 5 minute break now! Go check twitter. Look at that new library. Think about something else… do whatever you want, because it’s break time.
Taking My Own Advice
I have to admit, it’s been a while since I’ve done a pomodoro timer. But I do remember the good days of when I was doing it regularly, a few months ago. I found myself more productive, and more focused. It became easier to stay focused, too. I was practicing my focus… exercising my ability to ignore distractions… and it was good.
I think I’ll start doing pomodoro timers again, this week – starting with a few pomodoros to plan the work that I should be doing, so that I can stop floundering around and jumping between tasks, every few minutes.