There are two main things that I use to stay focused on work. I’ve tried many things, but I always come back to these two because they have proven the most effective for me.
1. Turn off all notifications (email, slack, phone, etc)
The first one is simple, but not easy. Close the tab in my browser that houses my email account. While watching the numbers in the title bar tick up is addicting, I must force myself to close the tab in order to get any meaningful work done after a period of time.
2. Use the Pomodoro technique.
The Pomodoro technique is how I motivate myself to work when I have so many things to do, I don’t know where to start.
Let’s say I have six things that are of equal priority. Each thing needs to get done, but none is more pressing than the other. How do I know where to start?
I use an app on my Mac called Be Focused Pro. It gives me a countdown timer in my toolbar. I set the time interval for 25 minutes, click start, and choose one of the six tasks to focus on for that 25 minutes.
At this point, it doesn’t matter if I finish the task. The counting timer gives me the focus I need to at least get started on ONE THING. What usually happens over the course of the twenty five minutes is that I’m able to either complete the task and move on to something else. Or, the act of starting on something gets me into the flow of working and I’m able to focus on the task even past the 25 minute mark.
A true Pomodoro is a set time period with breaks in between. Sometimes I follow that method. 25 minutes work, 5 minutes break. On really task heavy days, that’s the pattern I usually follow.
I’m actually doing a Pomodoro right now as I write this blog post.
Some projects, however, require intense focus for a couple hours at a time to get anything meaningful done. In those cases, an initial Pomodoro helps me get focused and into the flow. Once the initial Pomodoro interval ends, I have the inertia I needed to keep going.
That’s how I try to stay focused and productive throughout the work day. How about you?