Ways to focus

Ways to focus

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Dear readers, I have a confession to make: these weekly missives in which I expound upon the latest tech-related news of the weird that has caught my eye, and that I think you might find just as diverting, sometimes do not come easy. More often than not, I am sometimeWays to focuss less-than-inspired: the right words elude me; the empty word processing page sits brightly in mockery. I try to write an introductory paragraph three times over, then have to take a break for a coffee or possibly a sandwich lest I become overwhelmed by existential despair.

Which is why I was very interested to see this article out of Psychology Today, which breaks down the actual, physical steps one can take to more easily enter that mental sweet spot — the state of maximum concentration and minimum effort that you may have heard athletes call “the Zone,” or psychologists “flow.” Practical-minded me appreciates that, though the state itself seems magical, the three steps require casting no spells.

My personal favourite step is charming in its direct permissiveness: “build yourself a fortress against interruption.” Our working lives often require such endless interruptibility (see our recent article about multitasking) that taking the time to physically shut the world out seem like sacrilege. But author Christine L. Carter exhorts us to take care of:

“Anything that might distract or tempt you away from your task […] before you drop into The Zone. Think of yourself as going on a road trip: What will make you pull over before you reach your destination? Will you need to plug your computer in? Get a tissue? Adjust the thermostat? Something as small as an itchy tag on the back of your shirt can weaken your focus if you are tempted to go to the bathroom to cut it off. Here is what I have to do before I find flow: Clear my desk of anything that might distract me. Remove yesterday’s coffee cup, close books, put pens away, stack papers into a deceptively neat pile. As I do this, I note anything on my task list that will need attention later, and make a time when I will attend to it.”

The other two (only two!) steps also offer great tips for finding your elusive flow, allowing you to work at your peak efficiency, while actually having fun doing it. This, I believe, is a state we workers deserve to be in, and I look forward to trying the tips extensively. How about you?