Struggling to focus like me? Try the Pomodoro Technique

I’ve realised that I really struggle with focus. I’m constantly checking my email, checking my phone, scrolling through Instagram, Facebook & Twitter or jumping between random tabs in my browser.

I’ll start a task and while a file is busy downloading, or I’m waiting for something to load, I’ll quickly pick up my phone to check Twitter, or jump into my inbox to reply to a new email that has arrived.

My focus is a mess. And with no proper focus, comes no deep work, which means I’m not tackling the things that will help grow my business.

I came across Conor Neill’s blogpost where he talks about focus. This take away quote in his post is gold:

“If you don’t learn to focus, you will have a shallow and unrewarding life without any meaningful achievements.” ~ Derek Sivers

Conor recommends trying the Pomodoro technique, which he has used to great success. I must have me some of this Pomodoro!

How I use the Pomodoro Technique

You can watch the video below to see how a Pomodoro works, but it’s really simple. Set a timer for 25 minutes (a Pomodoro) and start a task. When the timer rings, get up (mid-sentence if you must) and take a 5 minute break.

If you get distracted by an email, reset the timer.
If you check your phone, reset the timer.
If the phone rings and you answer, reset the timer.
If your colleague taps you on the shoulder, reset the timer.
If you need to go to the bathroom, reset the timer.

I managed to complete 1 Pomodoro on day 1, 2 Pomodoro’s on day 2 and I’m writing this blog post on day 3 and if that timer rings it will be my first Pomodoro for the day (It’s currently 16:39). UPDATE: Yip, my first and only Pomodoro for the day!

What I also do is mark off the number of Pomodoro’s I’ve completed in my notebook, so that I have some sense of achievement when one is completed.

That * on day 1 and day 3 was an unfinished Pomodoro – I completed the task before the Pomodoro was up.

I at first thought that having to reset the timer each time I got distracted meant I’d feel like I was failing, but it has the exact opposite effect. It makes me even more determined to complete a Pomodoro, by focusing 100% at the task at hand and waiting for that buzzer. What it also showed me is how many damn distractions there are around me! My phone and the bad habit I have of constantly checking my email tab (I use Gmail in a pinned tab in Chrome) every few minutes.

A few Pomodoro tips from me

  1. DON’T USE YOUR PHONE AS A TIMER. You might have a notification come in while waiting for your phone to go off – and if that happens and you check it – you’ll have to reset the timer! Get a simple timer app for your Mac or PC. I’m using Tomato One.
  2. Turn your phone on silent, and leave it upside down or pop it into your bag so it’s a little further out the way so you aren’t tempted to check it.
  3. Pop on some headphones and listen to some music while tackling your task. If you’re not a music listening person, then just pop in headphones anyway and listen to nothing – they will definitely make any co-workers think twice about disturbing you.
  4. Keep track of the number of Pomodoro’s you complete in a notebook. The satisfaction of ticking them off really helps with the focus.
  5. Try and tackle tasks you know take longer than 25 minutes using the Pomodoro Technique and leave the little ones for later or even better, block them together. The little ones for me are a distraction to themselves, so I don’t try and Pomodoro them, I just get them out of the way.

Do you struggle with focus? What techniques or methods have you tried that have worked for you? I’d love to know!

 

Use Authy instead of Google’s authenticator – it’s safer if anything goes wrong!

TL;DRMake sure you have 2FA setup. Secondly, use Authy instead of Google Authenticator as it’s safer. Lastly, if you’re using Google Authenticator already, then switch to Authy.

When I bought my first bitcoins and altcoins, I immediately setup 2FA (2 Factor Authentication) to protect my Luno and other accounts that I use that have some form of value to me. Most of these sites say “we support Google Authenticator” and off I went to install the app and used that to add that additional layer of protection. Great! Well, not so fast…

Google Authenticator only supports a single device. If I lost my phone, and I never screenshotted/saved/backed-up the backup key that most of these services give you when setting up 2FA, I’d be royally screwed (sidenote, I had no idea where I saved these backup keys!). With Authy though, they support multiple devices as well as cloud backup (encrypted!). If I lost my phone, I could log in to Authy and I’d still have access to all my accounts wherever I’d setup 2FA.

But the app says they only support Google Authenticator – how can I use Authy then?

2FA is just a QR code or long string of characters. If the website or app says they support Google Authenticator, that means it also supports Authy!

If any website or service you use offers 2FA, set it up!

If you’ve setup 2FA with Google Authenticator and want to switch (like I did), it’s really easy. Login to the apps and sites, disable 2FA (using Google Authenticator) and then setup 2FA again using Authy. Took me 5-10 minutes to change over all my accounts and now I feel a lot safer knowing that my phone isn’t the only device that holds all the keys to my castle.

Need more convincing? Read Authy’s blogpost on their comparison to Google Authenticator.

I finally managed to read 12 books in a year!

I’m super stoked with how many books I managed to read in 2016. I’ve always tracked my book reading in Good Reads and each year, I’ve set a goal to read 12 books a year, but never really got close. This year, I nailed it!

2016: 12 books!

2015: 6 books
2014: 7 books
2013: 9 books
2012: 7 books
2011: 7 books

The one thing I’ve worked out that separates really successful people from the rest is how many books they read. Not waking up before everyone else, not batch scheduling their emails, not meditating and certainly not drinking green tea infused with panda tears. It’s reading lots and lots of books.

I’m sure you’re going to ask, so here we go.

My 3 favourite books I read in 2016

  • *Drum roll please….* Ladies and gentlemen, Jason Bagley has voted. The results have been verified by our auditors, Johnson, Johnson, Johnson and Johnson and in 3rd place…

legacide3. Legacide – Richard Mulholland

I am in no way biased. (the results were verified by JJJ&J, pinky swear). Rich’s book, Legacide, is like one long lunch with him. It is one of the few books I’ve ever written notes in. (He does tell you to, so I guess that helped!) There are plenty of great business stories in Legacide, with each one making you think. If you’re interested in business, entrepreneurship or just want to be entertained, give this bad boy a read.

Right now, this book is like hens teeth – forever sold out! Rich has mentioned it’s been picked up by a publisher, so 2017 might just be the year you’ll be able to buy one. Sign up at legacide.com to be notified when it does go on sale.

the-one-thing2. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – Gary Keller

I devoured this book on my Kindle in 3 days and then went and bought 2 hard copies. One for me, so I could read it again at the beginning of January and make a bunch of notes and another copy for Adrian, my business partner to read over the holidays too. I’m so pumped for 2017 because of this book, I sound like the love child of Tony Robbins and Gary Vee!

It’s one of the very few business books I’ve read that has concrete todos for you to follow. It’s business orientated, but has things you can do to improve your personal life too. Pumped for 2017 I tell you, pumped!

born-a-crime1. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

If you’re South African, this is an absolute must read. If you’re a kid that never lived through or experienced apartheid it’s even more important that you read Trevor’s book.

Not only does Trevor take you through his childhood, growing up with a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father in a time when this was illegal, but each chapter has a small history lesson at the end. I’ve learnt more about apartheid, South African languages and cultures from this book, than my entire high school history class. (On a side note, who the hell needs to know about Shaka Zulu and his war tactics – which is what I was taught in history class, when what we should be learning about is how and why Soweto was built and the fact it was designed with 1 main road in and out which meant our Apartheid government could easily trap all the blacks in when needed!)

It had me properly laughing out loud at Trevor’s childhood stories and jokes and then becoming had me become angry and upset at how our white apartheid government treated people based on their skin colour.

It doesn’t cover any of Trevor’s rise to success, which makes this book even more special. It’s a history lesson that every South African should read.


I’m super chuffed to have read 12 books this year! This is definitely my four-minute mile. I’ve finally done it after years of trying and now that I’ve hit that milestone, I can see how easy it will be to achieve it again.

Here’s to reading 18 books in 2017!

 

Stop throwing away free money and get yourself a tax-free savings account!

We have all complained over the past few years about corruption, high taxes, e-tolls, the list goes on. Surprise surprise that our government have actually done some (good) work recently though by creating something every South African must take advantage of and that is…

The Tax-free savings account!

You might have heard of it on the radio and seen flyers and newsletters from your bank about it, but you haven’t really taken proper notice. Well I’m going to tell you that you NEED to get onto this today. Why? Because you are throwing away FREE MONEY!

Free money Jason? How is that even possible living in South Africa paying tax on every direction we turn here?

It’s pretty simple. The government knows South African’s don’t save enough. The problem is there is no incentive for us to save because the day we do withdraw that money from our investments, the tax-man puts his hand into our money bag to take his portion for Nkandla’s fire pool. They have realised that when everyone starts retiring and stops paying taxes, there will be a massive number of retired elderly folk that will want hand-outs from government and that is a big no-no as there won’t be any money to then top-up that fire pool.

That’s where your tax-free savings account comes in handy. It really is tax-free! No income tax, no capital gains tax, no dividend withholdings tax, no nothing tax!

If you stick to the following 2 rules of the tax-free savings account, you’ll have the pleasure of sticking a big middle-finger to government when withdrawing your hard-earned savings.

So what are the 2 rules?

Rule 1: You can only invest R30 000 a year into your tax-free savings account
Rule 2: Your overall life-time investment into the tax-free savings account is R500 000.

What happens if I break one of these rules?

Mr. tax-man will take a 41% cut of anything you invest over those amounts. Eina! (The tax-free savings accounts will make sure you don’t break these rules, so there isn’t anything to worry about really.)

Here is an example of what you could save using a tax-free savings account.

James invests R2500 a month for 16 years and 8 months. (That’s R30k a year and R500 000 in lifetime savings). If his investment earned 25% per annum for those 16 years, and he cashes in during year 17, he would receive a fat cheque for R5 736 108! He also saves R828 765 in tax that normally would have gone to Nkandla’s fire pool, but not with a tax-free savings account.
Over R800k in free money people!

  • James saved R500k of his hard-earned cash
  • James would receive R5 736 108 (assuming 25% growth p.a.) after 17 years
  • James would NOT be paying a tax bill of R828 765 (That would have been more than his initial investment!)

Ok, you have my attention and I want in! Where do I sign up?

All the banks and “authorised financial services providers” have tax-free savings account options. Another thing that is really great about these tax-free savings accounts is you can also invest in ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds – think Satrix, Top 40 JSE listed companies etc. JSE.co.za has a great breakdown of all the ETFs you can invest in with a tax-free savings account) which, over the long-term, will outperform any of the bank’s “savings” accounts.

My suggestion is do a little research and stay away from the big banks. No one has ever become rich by saving their money in a bank.

Personally, I’ve opened an account with Emperor Asset Management but take a look at SatrixStanlib, Momentum or Sygnia for alternative options to the money grabbing banks.

Another tip is if you have less than R30k currently invested in an ETF that is covered by the tax-free savings plan, cancel that investment and get that money back into the fund using the tax-free savings account. I opened an account with Satrix for my 1 year old daughter and have just recently cancelled it to move the money into a tax-free savings account and back into the very same ETF. She can thank me later. :)

Opening a tax-free savings account is a no-brainer for your kids as well as anyone looking to save over the long-term – 10+ years.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor, so please get advice from someone that is, before investing your hard-earned money.