As long as I remember myself, I always had problems with focusing on one thing. Computer games contributed a lot to my immediate gratification mentality, during elementary school my sole purpose was to carve out every minute to play Counter-Strike or Warcraft.
It wasn't until 20 yo or so, when I realized it is hurting my life, in many ways: Moneywise, health-wise.
I made a conscious decision to fix it and become more productive. Since then, my life becomes somewhat a rollercoaster, of Highly-productive & burned-out times. I still don't have a perfect pill for you or myself, but I can share with you what helped me and what I use today.
Multitasking is horrible
Multitasking is awesome, since thanks to it you can feel busy all the time. And in the society where everybody prises being busy, overbooked, and stressed about work, feeling busy is essential.
But is being busy means being productive? I don't feel so and this feeling reflects in tons of papers and studies.
Here is a simple example, you can follow the video and try exercise or just watch it.
As you can see, it took twice as much time to complete the same two tasks if you "multitask", sure, its a very simple example, but it outlines important thing. When you start doing something, you need to access all required information from different parts of your memory and brain, and this process takes time.
On top of that, it not only takes more time to complete tasks, but their quality could also be damaged, and it is true among different industries.
Some studies went even further, according to a study at the University of Sussex, constant multitasking actually damages your brain.
I bet you heard about Flow State, I bet you heard about hacking your productivity and doing days worth of work in a matter of hours. In the course of my life, I tried different apps, hacks, exercises, and habits.
List of what I tried:
Meditation once or twice a day
Music: Instrumental, with words, without words, operas, techno, and only god know what else
To-do list & trackers: Pomodoro timer, Todoist, a script for DND mode and many, many more
Walking breaks every 30 minutes
Killing notifications from my coworkers
Working on iPad, Mac, Paper notebook
Working from home, from office, from coworking, from a cafe
Not working at all :D
For me it boiled down to 3 main factors:
Music or ambient sound like cafe
Turned off notifications on my mac & iPhone
Understand what is the goal of next sprint or window
30 minutes plus windows
I find a change of place I work from is very helpful as well, but it requires more "resources, like time and money.
Naturally, I clicked the link and it decreased my productivity of the day by extra 15 minutes 😅
I decided to give centered a shot, and oh boy, I immediately fell in love with it. Not only it checks all my boxes mentioned earlier, it does it in one window.
I use scheduling options only for focused and importnat tasks, making it the main fitler for the day.
Nice analytics: Overal daily score, Main disruptors and full list of apps and windows you used while performing a task.
Video tips with stunning photos of nature and breathing exercises are stunning and insightful.
And don't underestimate the power of habit and trigger. Now, as soon as I turn centered on I start thinking strategically about my tasks for today, effortlessly transitioning to work on them.
But wait for a second, you said as soon as you turn the app on you feel great, but how do you make yourself turn it on and start working?
That was always my problem, and it's ridiculous.
As I mentioned before, I tried a LOT of task manager. But the thing is, if you don't have the motivation to do stuff, no tracker will help you.
HOW CAN HABIT TRACKER HELP ME TO ESTABLISH GOOD HABITS IF I DONT HAVE A HABIT OF USING THE HABIT TRACKER.
Motivation is the answer.
There are two main sources of motivation: Internal and External.
External is pretty easy - it's your boss, your peers, it's an absence of food in your fridge or your girlfriend giving you a hard time because you are sitting on the couch all day and play Fortnite.
But what if you have no problems with getting food, no GF or boss, and no people pushing you to do things? Basically, you are a freelancer, consultant, or whatever fancy word you want to use.
Something else I don't understand - motivation tapes, motivation books. What happened to you? Someday everybody needs to be motivated? It's a fairly simple thing - either you want to do something or you don't. What's the big mystery? Besides, if you were motivated enough to go to the store to buy a motivation book, aren't You motivated enough to do that? So You don't need the book, put it back, tell the clerk: "Fuck you, I'm motivated, I'm going home! ".
- George Carlin
That's my favorite quote about motivation, but jokes aside tho, I have a simple 5-minute exercise I find helpful all the time I fell lack of motivation.
I simply imagine two versions of my future:
First - where I procrastinate more, slack on tasks, fail on deadlines, eat junk food, and skip workouts. Aka, ruining my life.
Second - where I'm always well prepared, exercise regularly, I deliver on promises and achieve my goals.
I reinforce this picture with simple questions, like:
"what if I keep doing it for years?"
"How would I look if I skip workouts for 5 years?"
Imagining a clear and detailed picture of myself in both of these futures always gives me a strong "kick" in the right direction.
Not surprisingly, burn-out became a real disease and was recognized by the WHO, and I felt it myself just before the COVID quarantine hit.
I've been working on my project for 6 months straight, without a single day off. It was fun and exciting in the beginning, I fucking hated it by the end. When we started to run out of money I felt an irresistible desire to shut the company down. Our PNL was nowhere near being positive and I felt no confidence to raise the bridge round.
It took me hours of conversations with my senior partners, investors, and friends to understand, that business is not a sprint. You need time and money to test hypotheses and find product-market fit.
You need energy and mental power to carry on through downturns and problems, otherwise you will pass to soon.
This experience is what mainly made me start writing and I will tell you more about my founder journey in the next posts.
So how not to burn out?
Take god damn days off!
GET OFF THE FUCKING SCREEN!
My personal ways to recharge - Pool parties, Boat rides, and Snowboarding trips.
Best quick fix - talk about your problems with people who faced similar ones and solved them.
Here is a quick summary of that post:
Achieve flow state: No multitasking & notifications