If you remember, last Sunday I linked to an article about how multitasking is actually slowing us down and reducing our productivity. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the nature of focus and concentration and how it changes our perception of life, work and writing.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been experiencing problems focusing on what I have to do because of constant distractions: Twitter, Facebook, emails, text messages, television. Something that should take me 20 minutes took me an hour because I was constantly stopping to check my tweets and the like.
Why we need more focus
Being focused means living in the present–concentrating on one thing at a time and leaving our distractions (internal and external) behind. In our increasingly rapid society where everything and everyone is connected through so many networks, it seems like an insurmountable task to just do one thing at a time.
We need more focus because it helps us:
- Be more productive
- Appreciate the moment
- Enjoy our downtime
- Do meaningful things
When I spend time with my boyfriend or with my friends, I don’t want to be distracted by tweets and messages. I want to be there, 100%, because it’s the only way I’ll really make this time meaningful. Let’s give an extreme example: how would you react if your partner suddenly started tweeting during sex? Awkward, isn’t it?
It’s the same with interacting with friends and acquaintances, even strangers. If you think it’s rude that someone interrupts their conversation to you to answer a text, then it’s most likely to be rude if you do the same.
How we can focus more
I’ve developed several tools to focus over the years, most of them for being more productive in my writing. But you can also use them in your life as well.
Be conscious of what you do
Do everything consciously, with forethought and deliberation. Avoid the confusion of the scatter-brained and the impulsive.
Find somewhere calm or stimulating
When I was writing my thesis, I had 3 distinct stages: working at the library, working at home and working in the student lounge. After a while, I became unable to produce in a certain space, so I had to switch every few months.
Observe your patterns and figure out when you need a change of scenery. If you can’t afford to work anywhere else, take a short walk, close your eyes and imagine a tropical beach, or simply change the orientation of your desk.
I now have time especially allocated to dealing with social media and blogging. Instead of letting Twitter eat a few seconds of my time every minute, I just keep it all for after the important tasks have been done. Yeah, my Klout may suffer from it, but Klout doesn’t pay the bills…
Cut out distractions
If you really need to do something, you have to cut out distractions. Turn off your phone and your iPad, shut down your email program and close the browser windows you don’t need. Cut off the Internet if you don’t need it for this task.
On my computer, I have 2 desktops (thank you Lion OSX!), one for work and one for blogging and social media. This has helped me a lot to keep distractions away from my attention.
Shut out the world
There’s something called “binaural brain wave” programs that deliver a certain frequency to your brain depending on the effect you want. There are a few iPhone apps as well as the works of Kelly Howell–I find both useful in most situations.
These programs shut out outside sound and help put your brain in the right state, at the same time. That’s what I call a great 2 for 1!
What can you achieve now that you can focus?
I’ve been more productive in the past 2 days than I have been in weeks. By keeping myself focused, I can achieve more in shorter amounts of time and feel less stressed about deadlines.
These thoughts are also related to my TV diet, another distraction I’m trying to reduce in my life.
What have you done to reduce distractions and increase your focus lately? Share with me in the comments!