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Some Quick, Low-Effort Ways to Improve Focus
(full story below)
by Jason B. Jones

We live in distractible times, for bad reasons (cf. the news) and good (cf. Alto’s Odyssey, or the soccer [also, I think people are paying attention to basketball now?]). It is common from time to time to feel that one’s ability to focus is slipping away. (And focus has certainly been an evergreen topic here at ProfHacker!)

Last week, David ‘MacSparky’ Sparks (prior) wrote a post about focus that is both helpful and compassionate. You should definitely read the whole (short!) post, but I wanted to highlight in particular some easy ways to get started.

The first is, at least temporarily, to turn off all notifications on your phone:

I suggest a notification purge. Why not try turning off all notifications on your phone? It’s not that hard (although I wish Apple would make it easier). Just turn off all notifications and live like that for a day or two and then only add back notifications for the apps from which you absolutely must get notifications. This clean slate approach is exactly the way I reduced the number of daily notifications from about 40 to about 5.

It’s definitely the case that you need some notifications–but maybe not all of them, constantly.

And the second is to hide alluring apps so they’re not *right* there:

Make a folder on your iPhone called “Not Now”. Put apps in there that are your frequent temptations. For some people, it will be Facebook. For others, it may be Twitter or even Email. Make opening the “Not Now” a deliberate act that you do only when you are not focused in on getting some work done. If you really want to go nuts, put the “Not Now” folder on page three of your home screen to really keep it out of mind.

The danger here is that you just leave your phone on that folder, but hopefully not!

And while Sparks has several other helpful items in his post, I wanted to emphasize just one more: it’s ok to be kinder to yourself:

There are so many articles on the Internet by people dealing with the focus problem that are beating themselves up about it. That just gets in the way. We have more distractions thrown at us these days than any time before in human history. We’ve all got to come to grips with it and it’s hard. Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you occasionally fall off the wagon, don’t get angry. Just get back on the wagon and keep trying.

This is sound advice–it’s really not clear who the superego is helping! Is anyone going to feel better about the fact that a project hasn’t moved itself along because you’ve gotten yourself completely twisted up about it? Probably not!

Anyway, it’s a good post, and worth a read, maybe especially if you’re late into your spring break and bracing yourself against re-entry a bit. Or at any time, really!

[Photo "Focused" by Flickr user efmphotography / Creative Commons licensed BY-ND-2.0]
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