Forever Distracted? Here’s How to Bring Focus into Your Creative Work and Life
One thing I’ve come to learn about myself is just how easily distracted I can be.
Up until recently, I could barely continue to write a blog post without checking the email that pops into my inbox, or create header imagery without stopping to favorite a tweet from one of our Twitter followers. I used to think I was extremely efficient, always crossing tasks off of my checklist. But now I know that my scrambling was far from effective. I’ve found some better ways to drown out the noise. I hope they’ll serve you well, too. (Please share yours in the comments below!)
1. Prioritize based on the big things.
Once you’ve recognized that you need to bring focus into your life, take a look at your responsibilities. What is highest, not on your small task list, but that list of annual goals you wrote – with high hopes – at the beginning of the year? Start restructuring your priorities based on these. Write your year’s goals and post them up right next to your monitor. Now that you’ve reframed things, you may find a much more efficient way of getting those tiny tasks done. After all, those are the items that are getting in the way of leaving your job to freelance full-time (or whatever that dream may be).
Speaking of the little tasks, try David Allen’s famous ‘Two-Minute Rule.’ When faced with a task that can be completed in two minutes, go ahead and complete it right away. The others can wait.
2. Block Out Your Next Day’s Activities
Here at Go Media, we use Google Drive for everything. One productivity hack that has helped me tremendously is planning out my day the day before in my calendar. Something about creating those blocks makes me feel like I should stick to my word. Yes, it sounds obvious, but you can only roll your eyes if you stick to it. And bonus points if you stick to your plan and leave by 5:00 pm. (You need to go home and recharge).
3. Just Say No.
Bill, the President of Go Media, encourages us to jump out of a meeting if we’re swamped with work or fighting a monstrous deadline. He respects us and knows we’re serious when we do so. I’m not sure about your boss, but if you show her or him that you really mean it, it just may work for you too. The overall message is, dedicate time to what you really need to be doing. Time is money.
4. Vow to Respond to Email at only 1 to 2 points in the Day
As mentioned, I used to respond to my emails at the drop of a hat. I’ve stopped that. Unless something is incredibly urgent, I will wait until it’s time to check – usually right when I get into work and mid-afternoon. This gives me more time to concentrate on bringing more success to our Arsenal, the home to the world’s very best design resources (my goal).
5. Get in the Mood
My ideal creative environment and atmosphere involves a warm blanket, dim lighting and perfect Spotify playlist. The pen seems to flow most steadily from 8:30 to 10 am, when you can hear a pin drop here in the office. Where and when are you most creative? Capitalize on that.
This isn’t always possible, so when you’re not in your ideal environment, attempt to get back to that spot. I’ve found that some apps will help.
Turn off the Noise.
The very thought of using an online app to block distractions gave me a bit of a panic attack, but this is the very reason I needed it. If you’re the same way, it’s time to face the music. Try Freedom or Focus Booster.
Turn on the Noise…for a bit.
I manage our social media here at Go Media, so I have to spend time scouring the web for cool stuff, posting on Twitter and Facebook, tumbling, pinning, stumbling. I can’t be forever blocked from the fun stuff. Using an app like Stay Focused keeps me on track; it gives me a start and stop time – then redirects me back to the rest of my daily work.
6. Jot Down Brainstorms for a Rainy Day.
While you’re in no-distraction mode, head to a to-do app like Google Keep or Teux-Deux. If you’re a blogger, like me, jot down at least one possible story subject a day. If you have a really brilliant idea and the ideas keep flowing, open up a Google Doc and begin your stream of consciousness. Allow yourself to write for a few moments and leave it there for a rainy day. These brainstorms will definitely come in handy on those days when distraction is at an all time high and we might otherwise spend a very frustrated hour staring at the screen.
Oh, and speaking of to-do lists, I used to think it was fun to keep a whole list of them, due to the joy of crossing them out. Then, I compiled a list like this.
This never-ending list completely overwhelmed me, brought me to a point where I didn’t know where to begin.
In order to save myself from the to-dos eating me alive, I started following the 2 minute rule, mentioned above and began plowing through the tiny tasks during scheduled, short breaks in my day (usually around email-checking times).
So, those are my suggestions for bringing focus into an otherwise distraction filled day. What are yours? Please share with me in the comments section below. I’d love to add some new tools to my collection.