Working with constant distractions and multitasking prevent us from deep work and concentration. Working on a single, important task with all our potential takes effort, but it also creates increased productivity and fulfillment.
What are the things we can do to maximize our time working in an intensely concentrated state while minimizing distractions?
There are quite a few strategies and tactics you can use; some are aimed to disarm outside distractions and others at sabotaging distraction-drawing-chatter-monkey inside our head. What follows is my checklist: Apply and edit to your needs.
Eliminate Smart phone. Park your phone somewhere far away. Somewhere out of sight and effortful to retrieve is the best bet. Also, use silent mode if not waiting for a specific emergency. Even smarter strategy is to turn the power off, since then you know you have to wait for it to reboot, allowing you to fight through the first craving for quick distraction. The downside of turning your phone off is that if someone tries to reach you, he/she will probably assume you are dead since your phone has no reception.
Eliminate the computer, if at all possible. Limit access to the internet, if you must work on computer. Create a list of prohibited distracting websites or applications with Cold turkey (no affiliation) and activate the blocking timer to block out access to anything distracting. I use two sets of blocking lists: One blocks my internet browsers (with a set schedule, you can read more about it here), and one that blocks my internet browser and video player. If you must have the internet for working, open the pages beforehand and disable your connection or limit the pages you can visit with Cold Turkey.
Food to chew on, while getting started. Cucumbers and zucchini are ideal for this, since they are cheap, healthy, and you can’t overeat either. The chewing is just while getting started with deep work. Once engaged in the task you won’t need or want to eat anything.
Drink, like sparkling water or coffee. I typically opt for coffee, but that depends on the time of day
Clear outcome to work towards. You need to know what you are trying to achieve. Defining the outcome and why you want to meet is beneficial in focusing you towards attaining it and motivating you to get started. For large tasks have the outcome in writing.
Clear sub-outcome for the next step towards your outcome. Having one massive goal, you are trying to achieve, can create anxiety and procrastination if you don’t know what to do next. Knowing the next step, you need to take will help with getting started and taking the next logical step. Break the big outcome into an action list. That way you know what you need to do next and you can feel great about achieving and building momentum towards the ultimate outcome.
A timer for getting started and taking regular breaks. I like the Pomodoro timer for most projects, taking focused action for 25 minutes, followed by relaxation and recovery of 5 minutes. Depending on the project, you might set the timer for 50 minutes instead of 25 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of break.
Mark up the total amount of full focused blocks somewhere where you can see it. Make it into a game against yourself and try to beat your focused block count every week.
Make yourself unavailable for other people.
Go work at a library or café, or some other place where you can’t be physically distracted by other people.
Use headphones, if you have to work in a noisy environment.
Listen to something calming background music that can be tuned out and drowns any other noise. Test different music types to find the best music to get you into the right state.
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