What’s killing your ability to focus?

distractedI have many distractions in my home office. As I am sitting here right this very second, the cat is on my lap (he moves constantly), there’s clutter on my desk, toys are all around me, and the task board on the wall keeps whispering to me, “I’m not up to date!” My daughter is napping and my son is finishing the last few minutes of his quiet time, otherwise, there would be two additional distractions.

And then, there’s the distractions of my own mind. I can come up with really good ideas for some piece of furniture we need for a space in our home to improve the organization so I should run and measure it then look up possible purchases on Ikea but I’m actually supposed to be working on some technical editing assignment due in a day.

And last, there’s the distraction of your phone. If there’s a notification light flashing, tell me: how strong is your will to ignore it until you’ve put in your next 30-60 minutes of writing? Or do you really need to know who posted a comment on that Facebook pic you posted a couple of days ago? I do!

I recently read a great article on Harvard Business Review, “The Two Things Killing Your Ability To Focus.” Check it out for yourself and here are the highlights and a thought about what I really liked about it. First, the two things killing your focus:

  • We use digital media (tablets, phones, etc) for over 12 HOURS A DAY on average!
  • We spend two much time in meetings.

Then, the meat of the article is what I liked the most: 5 practices to remain focused and improve effectiveness.

  1. Practice mindfulness. I used this to change how I start my day and resist the temptation to immediately check my phone. Before I was worn out from the sleep habits of an infant, I would start with a morning yoga sequence: the sun salutation. I need to go back to that!
  2. Organize tasks. I have a task board that reflects my former life as a Scrum master. I have fallen out of practice of using it, but in part, I think it’s because it’s missing more tasks in my “blue category” which would represent more creative tasks. Instead, I get overwhelmed with all of the red-orange tasks on my board: clean clean clean! (I choose to ignore them instead.)
  3. Clean up. I do a very excellent job of keeping my desktop of my computer clean. Ever since Windows moved over to launching everything from the Start, my desktop rarely needs icons. My digital world stays pretty clean, but I’m terrible at keeping things tidy in my real, tangible world. If anybody can help me out (besides telling me to buy Marie Kondo’s book!), I’m listening. I think I’ll start by doing a better job of making the bed in the morning. That gets ignored, oh, 99 percent of the time.
  4. Shrink meetings. This step is for those in lots of meetings. That was once my life, but we had learned how to make those meetings pretty effective and they worked best when it was only the core team. Others jumping in (invited or not) turned into impediments. I do not miss my former life of meeting mania!
  5. Preserve buffers. In the meeting world, schedule breaks in between meetings. In the working-from-home-as-a-mom world, I’m not entirely sure how to do this, but I had an idea the other day that might be just what I’m looking for and it involves graph paper and adding more “green” to my task board (health/wellness). If I take a graph paper and set it up with large boxes for each green task, then as I am consistently doing them (things like reading scriptures, attending  church, working out, meditation, etc), I get to fill in one of the graph squares. So over time, I can see which green tasks I am doing consistently as I color in the corresponding box. If it works out, I’m going to blog about my experiment.

Now, I need to focus on redistributing some dirt in my front yard. If you want to help, bring a metal rake!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.