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  • Bethan Winn

How to focus (when you'd much rather be doing something else...)


You know when you have a pressing deadline and you really need to focus, but you find yourself lost down a rabbit hole of self sabotage and mental candy floss?

I'm guessing I'm not the only one, and if you also struggle with focus, here's a few tricks that my rational, logical system 2 thinking puts in place so that lazy, impulsive system 1 thinking can't swan off distracted: ➡️ Schedule the time you focus best. Coffee chats at 9.30 are great, but if this is also your best focus time, push it back to an 11am and a decaf if necessary. 

➡️ Set the scene. Clear the decks or replace them with some clearer ones. Make sure hurdles like battery power, internet access, water to hand are all in place. 

➡️ Hide. Seriously. If your usual open plan or co-working space is full of chatterboxes, go to a coffee shop, book a meeting room or find a secret desk in a library.

➡️ Be difficult to contact. If your work allows, switch your phone off or at least put it away from you and off your work space.

➡️ Have some snacks ready. Our brains need glucose to do it's best thinking - not lots of lollies but something with protein and carbs will be best.

➡️ Put one song on repeat. Podcasts and lots of different, stimulating music can be distracting. One song you like, over and over, wont distract in the same way. Also headphones discourages others from disturbing you. 

➡️ Break it down to chunks for some easy wins to encourage you to stick with it. Have a ticklist if required so you can see progress. 

➡️ Give yourself a deadline if you don't have one or agree some accountability with someone else and a "reward" if you meet it.

➡️ For those who use it, avoid posting to social media immediately before you start - the tug to check for comments and reactions aren't going to be helpful.

➡️ Use the Pomodoro technique if it's really onerous. Put an egg timer on (or download a Pomodoro app) and promise yourself you'll stick with it for 20 mins, then take a timed break for 5 and get back to it.

➡️ If you're writing, programmes like Omm Writer are great for creating distraction free environments. Worth the price of a coffee to invest. 

➡️ If you're online, freedom app is a great way to outsmart your distracted brain. It locks you out of your chosen websites, across multiple devices, for the period of time you decide. 

➡️ Set expectations. Communicate your need to focus with others so they don't interrupt unnecessarily.

If this all seems like overkill and you have great concentration - well done! If you identify with this, please share how you keep those little urges for your mind to wander at bay in the comments - every little helps!

Photo: Nick Morrison, Unsplash.

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