I thought I'd do a quick update on how I'm progressing on my word of the year: FOCUS. It's going well. I have been making various changes inspired by several of my recent reads. [Links are at the end of the post.] Most importantly, I try to work for an hour or so in the mornings with no email or other notifications. I go to a different room from the one I usually work in, to provide a visual separation that says: "This is focus time." I really love the focus / deep work time, and hope to be able to expand the amount of time I can commit to it.
Even when I'm not doing that deep work time, I'm trying to work and live in a less distracted mode. Here are some of the things I'm doing for that:
- I turned off text notifications on my watch and my laptop. Instead of getting actively alerted, I just check for texts when I'm already changing tasks. This does mean that I'm a bit less responsive to family and friends, but it also means that my attention is disrupted much less often. I especially appreciate this when I'm with my daughter. It's a slight headache when I'm actually expecting a text, because I have to keep checking, but I still find it worthwhile overall (and of course I could re-activate notifications in that case if there was something critical). My phone does still vibrate for phone calls, which is how I would be notified if there was some problem with my daughter.
- I removed social media from my phone (including Facebook messenger), so that I'm not tempted to use random moments of downtime to scroll down the various rabbit holes. I still have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on my iPad. I check them briefly in the morning after I read the paper. And I do check in on them on my computer sometimes during the day (and share things), but I try to always close the tabs in between checks, and only check when I'm between other tasks. I don't have any active notifications for social media (except for notifications of LinkedIn messages that go to my work email account).
- I removed news apps from my phone and "breaking news" notifications from my watch. I read two newspapers every morning and usually check the WSJ app for updates while I eat lunch. I don't need other notifications in between.
- I unsubscribed from a number of blog feeds, email newsletters, and podcasts. I'm trying to spend more time reading and listening to books.
- I turned off email updating on my phone and erased the associated passwords. I left the app installed in case I get in to a situation where I really need to log in, but having to enter the password(s) is a real deterrent.
- I started reading with a notepad and pen next to me, instead of my having my phone within reach. If I get distracted by something, or want to add a book to my reading list or something, I can write it down, instead of pulling out the phone. This makes me less likely to be distracted by some incoming text, etc.
- On my computers (I have separate ones for work and blog/personal use) I shut my email programs down when not in use. I've had notifications for new email messages turned off for a long time.
These suggestions were compiled from the books below. I would recommend any or all of them.
- Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky: Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day. Currency. Adult Nonfiction. Completed November 11, 2018, personal copy.
- Greg McKeown: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Currency. Adult Nonfiction. Completed November 13, 2018, on Kindle.
- Cal Newport: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Grand Central Publishing. Adult Nonfiction. Completed November 24, 2018, on Kindle. I also have Newport's latest book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life in a Noisy World, on my nightstand.
- Chris Bailey: Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction. Viking. Adult Nonfiction. Not yet complete, but extremely helpful. I took the suggestion to read with a notepad next to me from Hyperfocus, and have also been using the book to help me think through goals and distractions.
All in all, I'm pleased with how this journey towards being more focused is going so far. I feel less distracted, and like I have more of a sense of purpose about the work that I'm doing. These are both good things!
© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. Links to be books may be affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission.