You’ve set priorities, scheduled the work, and know what you need to do.
Now for actually doing it.
That’s no easy task. Even if the outside world isn’t clamoring for your attention, then your own restlessness or lack of focus can wreck the best-laid plans. It’s especially tough when starting up again after a break. Here are some things that can help.
In my book, I walk you through all kinds of techniques for preserving focus. Getting rid of outside distractions is the number one most effective thing. So if you only do one thing, make it this one. Keeping at bay all those notifications, your wonderful colleagues, and other potential diversions will pay off big. That old headphone rule we used back at Blendle still works wonders. It’s an easy way to make clear to everyone around you that you’re either in a meeting or in do-not-disturb mode.
Another tip: work where others can see you working (and not working). When I’m on my laptop at my favorite coffeehouse, there’s no way I’m going to sit and watch YouTube videos or Netflix. But sometimes that’s not enough, and it would be great to have someone check up on you from time to time to make sure you’re making progress.
Micro deadlines work brilliantly for me: I set little goals for myself throughout the day. Get through these 20 emails by 2:30. Or Write that proposal within the hour. If I want to go all out, I share my deadline with someone nearby. That kind of light, self-imposed time pressure means I work a little bit harder and get back to work faster if distracted.
Some time back, I got introduced to a tool that combines all of the above, and I still swear by it. Focusmate lets you book free 50-minute sessions, where you sit and work with a random person somewhere in the world. You meet on a video call. At the start, you tell each other briefly what you intend to do in this session. Then you both leave your webcams on and get to work. When time’s up, a gong sounds and you say what you managed to accomplish. Simple and effective.
I’m typing this while Sophie can see and hear me. I can also see that she’s working hard. She has three things to get done for a conference she’s organizing. I said I want to write this newsletter before the hour’s up. This is my third Focusmate session this week.
While I felt sure—before I’d ever tried it—that working with a total stranger would be super awkward, now I’m super enthusiastic. The reason it’s not awkward is mostly due to the clear rules. You don’t speak during focus time (you can use the chat if you have to). There’s one goal: getting the work done.
Try it this week if you haven’t yet (or if it’s been awhile).
Let me know how it goes!
Have a good week,