Buckling Down

Thing I am struggling with at work: Focus.

After spending the vast majority of the past 2 years chasing after a tiny human with the attention span of a goldfish, I am now noticing that my ability to focus for more than about 40 minutes at a time in a work setting (or any setting, really) seriously stunted.

Example: I used to be able to get through a novel in one sitting, start to finish, if I didn’t have any interruptions. Now, I have trouble reading a book for more than about 30 minutes.

And it’s not entirely down to distractions. I have tried turning them all off. It helps to a degree, but if I get close to an hour without an interruption, my brain will shift all on its own, and go looking for one.

The ability to do rapid task-switching is definitely an asset in my particular job, when I’ve got many projects on the go, but I also need to be able to dig into bigger things and roll with them for a few hours. The balance is currently all off.

Do you have any favourite brain-stretching exercises for your think-muscle, when you’re trying to get to a place of focus and flow? My future efficiency thanks you.

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7 thoughts on “Buckling Down

  1. Donna

    This may not have to do with tiny humans and may be a product of age. I find the older I get, the shorter my attention span is as well.

    I’m fully expecting to be a goldfish by the time I’m 40.

  2. Courtney

    I have no tips for you so I’m interested to see what other people have to say. Almost 4 years later, I find that I still have an incredibly difficult time focusing at work. There are too many internet holes to fall down. 🙂
    Courtney´s last blog post ..Bloglovin’

    Jen Watkiss Reply:

    Well, you guys are no help at all! Though I do enjoy the idea of blaming it on age, too. With the double-whammy of age and kid to blame it on, I’m surprised I’m even…..

  3. Beth

    I’ve been using the Pomodoro app to keep keep me focused lately. I’m writing up a big report and would find myself writing a single bullet point and then thinking “I wonder if anyone has tweeted anything good in the last 16 seconds while I wrote that one point? Better check!” I turn the Pomodoro app on, sit my phone by my computer screen and it serves as a visual reminder that I’m not “allowed” to look at anything else but my data and the Word document that I’m writing my report in until the 25 mins are up. And often working through those 25 mins is long enough to gets me into the writing zone so that even when the buzzer goes off, I just keep writing rather than taking the break. (I’m actually on one of those breaks thatvi did decide to take right now, and now it’s time to get back to that report!)

  4. Chris

    +1 Pomodoro. I also suggest meditation. I’ve heard good things about the book “Personal Kanban”, but have yet to read it.

  5. Phil B

    I don’t use Pomodoro (but will be checking it out). If I need to knuckle down I close email, twitter, phone on silent etc and then set a timer for 20mins. Same principle as using the app, gives you a set time and it is surprising how much you can get done!

    I will then check twitter, get a cuppa and repeat.

  6. Liz

    This is something that I struggle with too! I’ve had some small improvements trying out a few techniques:
    1) the 45/15 rule — focus intently on the task at hand for 45 minutes, then flip-flop around on other small tasks for 15 minutes. I’m working on upping the “focus” time and decreasing the “flip-flop”;
    2) Trying to recognize my natural energy rhythms — I find it easiest to focus between 9am-11am, so I try to schedule my headier tasks then;
    3) Watch my diet. I become even more scatterbrained when I’m over-sugared, but can often focus more if I’m caffeinated (just not too caffeinated or I buzz!).

    Looking forward to seeing what others recommend! Good luck. 🙂

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