Do you remember that guy who got caught doing that thing to that wolf and the best thing was… oh wait a moment I just got a message… oh yeah, the time when Chris… 2 secs, gotta take this, it’s really important, so sorry… Anyway, the police told me that… shit, I have to go, let’s catch up soon… sorry, when? I’ll pm you on Instagram…
Being able to concentrate for prolonged periods really makes a difference to the outcome of your tasks. Shallow and fragmented thinking is the enemy to good work. I’m going to share with you some of the things that help me get shit done. Some things might be obvious but in any case I hope at least some are helpful.
1 De-clutter to focus more
De-cluttering helps remove distractions. This should be considered in the physical and emotional sense. Let’s start with the mind. Before going to bed I find journalling about the day helps empty my mind of all the nagging clutter. I list all the major events that happened that day, this is a bit like backing up files from your hard-drive before cleaning it. It also helps you remember things to act on the next day.
De-clutter your work space. There has a been a lot said on this already so I won’t go into much detail. You’ll have more space to move and be less stressed. A messy work place is also really distracting, oh look there’s that note I wrote about that wolf a month ago…
2 Block out distractions
Open plan offices are cool but can be really noisy and distracting. Even though my office in Madrid is pretty small it can get quite noisy. Yes, I know how noisy Spanish designers can be…
One way of blocking unwanted p̵e̵o̵p̵l̵e̵ noise is putting on your headphones and selecting your favourite playlist. However, I find it hard to concentrate while listening to music, especially when writing. On www.noisli.com you can create custom background noise. It surprisingly filters out any unwanted noise. If you really want to listen to music there are plenty of playlists on Spotify that have unobtrusive tracks. I find repetitive deep electronic music the best. It makes me feel like a design robot from the year 2000.
You already know this but social media is a rabbit hole of distraction. Of course you just had to check that thing but now your looking at a video of that guy, the wolf and the Tory MP, how did it get to this? (I mean you looking at the video, not the Tory MP and wolf, we kinda already know what they do in their spare time.)
I use the Chrome extension Stay Focused, to stop me laughing all day at dodgy politicians.
It’s easy to get distracted when you have no plan. I use a combination of Trello, Pomello and Google Calendar.
I organise Trello in the following columns. On Hold, This week, Today, Sent for feedback, Approved, Invoice sent, and Paid. I then time block the projects for this week in my Google Calendar. It helps to leave some buffer time as not everything goes to plan. Pomello is a timer that syncs with Trello. It gives you 25 minutes blocks to work on projects then 5 minutes rest. I feel a lot more productive when I know I should be working on something and not wasting my clients time on social media.
It also helps to block in time to read mails as this can really break your working rhythm. I try to keep my inbox down to only mails that need to be acted upon. The rest get filed away.
4. Calmness helps creativity
We all know how meditation helps you focus. For me it’s helped me be more conscious of my thoughts and their origins. Meditating everyday will help you focus on your task by quieting your chattering brain.
“Compared to non-meditators, meditators had more stability in their ventral posteromedial cortex (vPMC). The vPMC, a region linked to spontaneous thoughts and mind-wandering, lies on the underside of the brain, in the middle of your head.” Psychology Today
5. Exercise improves creative focus
If you’re sat down all day you’ll probably need to compensate by having a good workout routine. Exercise can help impulse control by triggering endorphins, which improve the prioritising functions of the brain and in the long term it can help starve off brain ageing and Alzheimer’s.
6. Creative Environment
If these tips above don’t seem to be working try working in a different location. I find my productivity is boosted by spending a few hours working in a cafe or different part of the office.
7. The Drugs
The short term advantages of drinking coffee can be considerable but in the long term you’re just robbing yourself of future energy. Look at it as a kind of nitro boost in a computer game that uses up your fuel faster than normal. Alternatively, tea can give you a more subtle boost without the crash associated with drinking coffee.
If none of the above are working it’s probably Friday afternoon, in which case you should consider swapping the mouse for a pint of some kind of intoxicating liquid, if not the hand of someone close.
Here’s the summary:
Journal at night
Keep a clean working space
4. Calmness & De-stress
6. Change your environment
Work in a different room or go to a cafe
7. The drugs
Use coffee sparingly and try tea
Would you like more focus in your organisation? Take a look at how we could help you with our workshops.