Put your phone in a drawer (and learn to leave it there)

How many hours could you go without peeking at your phone? So many people experience anxiety if they had to stay away from their internet enabled devices for a long time. Whatsapp notifications that run in the thousands and ever refreshing social media profiles have made it very difficult for some people to stay focused. Every notification is a distraction and even when they turn off data, the fear of missing out ensures at least some of their brain power stays thinking about what they could be missing. This is good for social media companies but bad for productivity. The ability to get focused and stay focused is becoming a rare skill just at the time when being able to stay focused can provide you with a huge advantage at work.

An arrow stuck in a bullseye
Focus is a moving target

All is not lost, however, staying focused is a skill that can be acquired by anyone. The more you practice, the easier it will get. Let’s break it down into 3 steps:

  1. Commit to doing a task for 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes, you are not allowed to reach for your phone. Put it on silent and lock it in a drawer if you have to. Get used to working in short 5 minute bursts uninterrupted. After a week, move up to 6 minutes. The aim is to have you being able to work on a task uninterrupted for 10 minutes after a month. This doesn’t seem like much but just hang on for a moment.
  2. Once you can focus for 10 minutes, you are ready for the next stage. Have you heard of the pomodoro technique? I wrote about it a few months ago. If you missed that, read the article before you continue. Download the pomodoro timer app. Set each pomodoro to 15 minutes. The next time you have a big task to work on, use the pomodoro timer. If you do this consistently for two months, you should be able to increase the length of your pomodoros from 15 to 20 minutes and eventually to 25 (the recommended length of a pomodoro).
  3. Anyone who can work on just 3 pomodoros a day can get at least one good hours’ worth of tasks completed every day. That one hour of focus often makes the difference between just being average and producing stellar results.
An hourglass
A focused hour a day might be all you need

Mobile phones are here to stay. I would never advocate telling someone to give up their data enabled devices just so they can focus better. At some point, you will need information from the internet. Having to go to an internet café anytime you do will be a huge drain on your productivity. With a little bit of effort, you can train yourself to ignore your device when you don’t need it. When you do, your personal productivity will shoot up. I have experienced it.

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