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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep track of the number of Pomodoro’s you complete in a notebook. The satisfaction of ticking them off really helps with the focus.
- 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!