I’m a very distractible person! I always felt I couldn’t focus intensively on anything for more than 5 minutes!
I would start studying but 5 minutes later I was already cleaning my room, eating, reading, or worse, checking facebook!
On the contrary, I always saw other friends who were, for me, an annoying example of intense focus! If they were watching a show they enjoyed, I could scream into their ears and still they wouldn't listen to me! What the hell…
Did I learnt how to be like those people? Absolutely not… But at least now I can stay focused for more than 1 hour, which for me is a huge gain!
But how did I learnt the ability to stay focused? By actually practising, practising and practising!
There's no magic here. Yes, there are simple tricks you can follow to help you with it, but if you do not actually sit and try to acquire the skill of focusing, you will be good at it.
To be really honest here, what mostly improved my ability to focus was: muting my phone and putting it away!
If you already distract yourself by only looking to the walls, why do you keep another big source of distraction near you?
Here’s what I did to learn how to focus intensively on a task!
1. PUT THE DAMN PHONE AWAY
This is probably the reason why most people don’t focus properly when they’re… (*checking a facebook notification*)… oh, what was I saying?
Like I said before, this was the main reason why I couldn’t properly focus on anything for more than a few minutes!
Each time you check your phone, your brain switch its context. The more your brain switch its context, the more tired you feel. The more tired you feel, the less ability you have to focus.
So what did I do to stop this awful habit? I put my phone in another room, so I couldn’t constantly grab it and check it. I did this for literally months.
Right now, I can have my phone near me (with the screen facing down), and I simply won’t grab it.
I keep my phone with me, because I use it to track my focusing sessions.
But I highly recommend you, in the beginning, to put your phone away… Because it’s too tempting to not check it every 5 minutes.
Also make sure you’re in a quiet place, where you’re not going to be interrupted by anyone!
2. THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE… IMPROVED
This is one of my favourite ways to focus intensively on a task, and it works amazingly!
Here’s how it works:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes, and focus on ONLY ONE task during that period;
- Have a 5 minutes break
- Focus for more 25 minutes
- Have a 5 minutes break
- Instant reward yourself
Because you’re only trying to focus on a task for 25 minutes at a time, it becomes much easier.
When I first started practising my focusing skills, I used a watch to track my time. I can now use my phone to do it, but again, I do not recommend you in the beginning.
In the end of two 25 minute sessions, it’s really important to get yourself an instant reward! Maybe that’s a cookie or a bike ride (the bike ride doesn't taste so good but it's better). It’s really important to reward yourself instantly!
What you're trying to do here is associate your focusing sessions with pleasure (by giving yourself a reward).
But the reward you give yourself, is not the only reward you will receive. The most important one is the satisfaction of finishing a task in a short period of time! Working smartly requires the ability to focus intensively in short periods of time!
Here are some extra tips for you, in order to improve the pomodoro technique:
- Increase your focusing sessions progressively, so you can improve your focusing skills (test with different time intervals)!
- Write in a piece of paper all the distracting thoughts that came to your mind during the session, and deal with them later.
3. APPS AND SOFTWARES TO HELP YOU TO FOCUS INTENSIVELY!
- Forest: Stay Focused, be present
Forest is an app that you can download to your smartphone that works more or less like the pomodoro technique. You chose a period of time to focus on, and in the end you have a virtual tree planted in your virtual garden.
After setting the time to focus on, you can’t leave the app! If you leave, your tree will be killed, and it will make your garden look ugly!
This is the app I’m using at the moment, because I found the concept really interesting! And I see the new tree in my garden as an instant reward too!
They also have a google Chrome Extension that works the same way and that also lets you block distracting websites on your computer 😉
- Rescue Time
Rescue time is a chrome extension that tracks in what websites you spend most of your time! This tool can be very helpful to make you aware that spending 5 hours on Facebook is not being productive…
I have a much more in depth post about this powerful tool that you can check here!
- Be Focused - Focus Timer & Goal Tracker for Work
This app is the best one if you want to use the Pomodoro Technique. Because it also lets you set a break session timer.
You can set the time for your focus session and also a break. Then click "play", put your phone away and start working!
I really think the techniques above and also the apps can help you to increase your focus! But remember, there’s no exact science.
Don't ponder too much, simply:
- Sit down
- Set a timer
- Put your phone away
- Focus and Work!
- Reward yourself