You remember the days when using a phone was actual work? To make a call you had to literally turn a metal wheel by dragging your finger in circles. There was only one ring tone…Loud. The phone wasn’t vibrating, tweeting, or reminding you of anything you’ve missed. You couldn’t check your email, stock prices, or take photos.
Now we scoff at those days wondering how we ever coped with such primitive technology. Sure, it wasn’t always convenient, but don’t you *kind of* miss it.
Though we’ve upgraded, in no way have we simplified. In the name of progress, we’ve made ourselves slaves to information. It’s no secret that we all have opportunities, people, and messages that compete for our attention at any given moment. The question then is – how do we survive this constant bombardment?
In this short post series about focus, I’ve attempted to offer some suggestions on how to live with greater intentionality and take control of our days. This has been a theme for me in this last season, and it’s required a great sense of self-control.
Once we’ve decided what we want to say “Yes” to and our schedules reflect that reality, the hardest part now comes into play. In a digital age, we have the whole world at our fingertips. Even then, we know longer have to open a web browser to see what’s happening in the world. All of that information is funneled directly to us.
One of the clever and annoying features of my iPhone is automatic alerts and notifications. In other words, any time something happens in the world, all of our devices are designed to make sure we know those things right now!
The moment I sit down to do work or dig into a project, I have a million things vying for my attention. When we decide we want to live with greater intentionality, we become a magnet for everything that doesn’t matter. This problem is only getting worse. All of this combined with a growing to-do list is a recipe that leaves us anxious and distracted.
Here are a few things that have helped me stay focused when it’s time to work and be creative…
1. Close your email.
One of the worst things you can do is check email ALL DAY LONG. It’s a huge time waste and attention drainer. The problem with replying to emails all day long is that people reply back all day long. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Schedule times in the morning and afternoon to process your email and then ignore it the rest of the day.
2. Turn off notifications.
I used to have every social media app on my Macbook and iPhone notify me when something happened. Not any more. I changed the settings on my phone to no longer automatically tell me when I have new emails. I have to manually check my email during the times when I want to know.
Also, I no longer have Facebook and Twitter pop up on my screen every time there’s a new comment. I have to actually go to those apps or login to find out what’s happening. A few times a day I’ll check in to see if I need to tend to respond to anything. This has been HUGE in eliminating constant distractions.
3. Put your phone on vibrate or even “Do Not Disturb”.
You don’t need to be available all the time. When you are doing something important, turn your phone on vibrate or even set it to “Do Not Disturb” if you want a good chunk of focused time.
4. Lock down your internet.
It’s amazing how prone I am to open up Safari and starting aimlessly browsing random sites. Close your web browser during times of focus. If you lack self-control in this area, then I’d suggest downloading an app called….wait for it…..Self-Control. It locks you out of your web browser for a fixed period of time. Brilliant.
5. Put on instrumental music.
Not everyone likes listening to music while working. But one way I like to get into a good flow is by putting on some headphones and playing some instrumental music. I’d highly suggest Nils Frahm or Aural Method as of late.
6. Unsubscribe from old email lists.
It sounds like common sense, but it’s important to take the time to unsubscribe from email lists that you don’t want to be a part of. Most of us just delete emails because it’s faster in the moment. But make a habit of actually removing yourself from email senders that clutter your inbox.
What other things do you do to stay focused in your day to day living? Seriously, I’d love to know.
In case you missed them, here are my other posts about focus…