I was struggling with focus in the past week, and I needed a refresher of the basics. So I was looking for reading a new book that I haven't read before, and luckily there was a free one - the Focus Manifesto by Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.com fame.
The whole book boils down to few things for me:
- Shut down or shut out all distractions, including email, twitter, phones, internet access, noise from outside, etc.
- Start with one thing that is important today and do only that, which is called the MIT (Most Important Task for today)
- Follow the Pomodoro technique, at least in concept - focus in a mindful manner in intense periods with short breaks in between
Nice and simple. And very hard to do. But it was surprisingly easy to do today after I read the book last night and today morning and was strongly reminded about the basics. Sometimes, all you need is to step back and revise the basics.
In particular, I am intrigued by the "Disconnect and Connect Working Routine":
Consider a routine such as the following:
- Disconnect for a day (or two). No Internet connection — perhaps no computer at all if using your computer is too much of a temptation to connect. Use an actual paper notepad and pen, writing and brainstorming and making pages of notes or sketches. Make phone calls instead of connecting via email or IM. Meet with people in real life, and get outside. Get a ton of important work done. No mobile devices except for actual phone calls.
- Then connect for a day (or two). Take all the notes and work you did during your disconnect, and type them up and email them and post them online and so forth. Answer emails and get other routine tasks done, and then prepare for your next day of disconnect.
- Repeat. You can vary the number of days you’re disconnected or connected, finding the balance that works for you.
While some may feel this will limit the work they can do, I think it’ll actually do the opposite: you’ll get more done, or at least more important tasks done, because you won’t be distracted.
You’ll also find it a calming change from the always-connected. It’s a peaceful routine.
What I find interesting is a "mostly offline" mindset as opposed to a "mostly online" mindset I had - I (mostly) used to switch off WiFi for the first two hours of the day. Come to think of it, maybe that's why I was more productive in Goa where I had severe Internet connectivity issues. Hmmm.