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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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The Process to Focus - How To Spend Your Time Getting More Done.

Currently, I bet you have several projects, tasks, responsibilities and people that are begging for your attention. You have put them all down on your to-do list and prepare yourself to start working, confident you will get them all done.

But wait, you don’t have your morning coffee - you better go get that.

Oh, you just received an email notification - it could be important.

Wait wasn’t it someone’s birthday today - better check Facebook.

And the cycle continues.

The cycle where the tasks on your to-do list never diminish, resulting in your projects taking forever to complete, resulting in pressure from customers, managers and colleagues about your lack of work ethic, producing more and more stress in your life.

All this because you just do not know how to focus.

You are not alone when it comes to focus. Many, myself included, are just not smart when it comes down to focusing on a specific task and not becoming distracted – but it’s not your fault.

With so much pulling for your attention at work, how is it possible focus on one task and ensure its completion?

Let’s imagine this…

What if it was possible to sit down and focus on one task for 8 hours straight – okay that may be too long, what about 3 hours – still no way, how about just 1 hour of fully focussed work with no self interruptions or other non-essential disruptions.

Imagine all the tasks you could accomplish if you were fully focused and in a state of “flow”.

You would have extra time to help your customers, managers and colleagues with their important tasks. You would achieve recognition for being the most productive worker. You would significantly reduce the stress that once was there from not being focused.

“But…” I can hear you say... I know this might sound like a pipedream. I know you have responsibilities that you must be always available to your staff. I know you just can’t physically focus for that long.

However, if you are serious about improving your ability to focus on your tasks, if you are serious about completing tasks quicker and quicker each day, if you are serious about a less stressful life, then these excuses shouldn’t stop you.

So let’s get down to the Process to Focus:

  1. Measure and Record
  2. Ultimate Focus Tool Stack
  3. Set your expectations
  4. Find an accountability partner
  5. Be consistent


1 – Measuring your Focus Levels and Record your Interruptions

Everyone has their focus poison, be it Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Emails, Messaging or even that pesky Coffee Machine :P

Unfortunately we all know those times when you have a deadline coming, but it is not quite at the stage it MUST be completed or your job is on the line - the moment the Panic Monster arrives (if you don’t know what this is, please read Why Procrastinators Procrastinate). So when the sensation of “I should do this, and I will, but I am just going to quickly check my [insert your POISON]...”

There has been so much research around the Assignment Due syndrome - the “I know I will do it, but I have so much time, so I’ll just do it later.”

This is where the Bad Focus runs around loving life. It stays with you and consistently reminds you “Hey did you know there’s something really cool on {your poison}”

My Bad Focus is always telling me: ”Hey you work so much better when you have a coffee” - so I go and get coffee, then as I sit down to work - ”Well you can’t work when you’re drinking, how about you watch a quick video on “something” relevant while you enjoy your coffee” Me: “sure that sounds like a logical move”.... As you can imagine, I have lost at least 2 hours before I kick myself out of this trap…

The first step to stopping your bad focus is finding out what your poison is. The best tool I have used for this is RescueTime.

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RescueTime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive.

RescueTime tracks your time spent online giving you a clear representation of how much time you are wasting, and what the main culprits are. It also comes in FREE and premium options to get you started.

Along with tracking your digital disruptions, it is also advised to track physical interruptions. The best way to do this is the faithful Pen and Paper with a tally system. Create a timetable grid into hour blocks and record the number of interruptions, the priority of the interruptions, and if you think it’s relevant, the culprit of the interruption (remember this includes yourself). And do this for at least a couple of days.

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Along with tracking your interruptions, track your focus levels as well. 

Did you find that first thing in the morning you are able to spend longer on a task than any other time? Put that into your focus journal.

Do you find yourself draining after lunch? Put that into the focus journal.

With this new found information, you will know the poison that is taking the majority of your focus away, the times of day you are most interrupted, who to talk to discuss a way to minimise these distractions and the best times you are energetic and focus naturally.

2 – Ultimate Focus Tool Stack


Hopefully Step 1 has helped you identify your personal poisons of distraction that are keeping you from getting your work done.

My most popular poisons are checking my email to many times in an hour, checking my facebook page, going to get coffee and staff distractions – maybe you can relate :P

So I want to help and give you the ultimate focus tool stack.

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StayFocusd increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites.

StayFocusd is a great Chrome extension that stops you from accessing your poison after a set time and forces you to focus on your goals and tasks as it gives you no choice. And the best part, no matter what you try, you cannot access it until the new day starts.

This has helped me in many online video binge watching sessions.

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Eradicate distractions by replacing your entire news feed with an inspiring quote.

Not only does News Feed Eradicator for Facebook stop you from going down the rabbit hole that is the Facebook newsfeed, but it gives you an inspirational quote to get you back to work.

pomodoro.pngThe Pomodoro Technique involves using a timer to focus on one simple task for a set amount of time. When the time is up, you reward yourself with a little break. It’s all about focusing your brain to work on one thing, just for a little while, and then rewarding yourself for your good efforts - after a while you get so keen on the rewards that the system starts to become second nature.

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It is found that the right amount of ambient noise is the perfect conditions to put you into your ultimate creative head space. Noisli is my go to ambient generator for working and relaxing. It not only creates focused noise like White noise, Rain and Coffee Shop, but complements it with amazing colours.

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Then there’s the old faithful Airplane Mode. This little secret has been used by many productive people as it restricts access and disruptions from all the attention grabbing apps from your phone such as messenger, emails and social media. A great way to maximise your airplane mode is to put your phone in the drawer :P

Congratulations! Now you not only know what distracts your focus, but have put the ultimate focus tool kit to practice and are ready for some serious focussed work.

However, the majority of people get to this point, only to fail.

This is because now that the real work is just around the corner, the doubt, self-sabotage, bad focus reigns supreme. This evil creature loves to pop up at the times you need to focus and keep you distracted.

You might have your ultimate focus stack running, but fortunately for this evil creature, there is an infinite amount of possible distractions that will keep you from being focussed.

The best plan of action at this point is to set smart expectations and tell others.

3 – Set your expectations

To set smart expectations, let’s answer some serious questions - ideally during your less focussed times:

  • What is your goal?
  • What are the high priority tasks related to that goal?
  • What is the highest priority task?
  • What does the task look like when it is completed?
  • What are the milestones to complete this task?
  • How many pomodoro’s will reaching the first milestone take to finish?
  • How can you celebrate the completion of your first milestone?
  • How can you celebrate the completion of the next milestone, etc?

The purpose of these questions is to get you start taking action on the highest priority tasks without feeling overwhelmed.

Feeling overwhelmed is the first step towards straying down the Bad Focus rabbit hole. Best way to not feel overwhelmed is to break a task into small actionable tasks and feel a sense of accomplishment with each task completion.

Rewarding yourself with each milestone completion will build the habit foundation required for maintained focus.

4 – Find an accountability partner

So far we have identified that the biggest distractions are from yourself and others. And what better way to satisfy both distraction than to keep both yourself and others dedicated to your focus goals.

This part of the process requires you to find your most distracting colleague and make them your accountability partner towards becoming more focused.

Yes you did hear that correctly. I want you to confront the person who distracts you the most to help you become less distracted and more focussed.

So how will you do this?

The best way I have found is with a simple conversation of your goals and an honest request for their help. Honesty and Humility.

With a simple conversation you can let them know your goal to become more productive and focussed at work and need someone to help keep them accountable to achieve this goal.

Not only is this a great way to genuinely seek help, but it will help them realise your goals and keep from distracting you in the future.

Ideally, you can share this post with them so that they can become just as focussed as you are :)

5 – Be Consistent

Ahh yes, the standard ending for any habit forming process. I hope you aren’t totally surprised :P

Even though this is common knowledge, it is definitely not common practice.

This step is by far the hardest and is the most popular step people fail the process to focus.

But if you can follow this process for at least 21 days, if you can consistently measure your focus levels, stop the bad technology with the use of your ultimate focus stack, make smart expectations of yourself, reward yourself regularly, and stay accountable to your partner, you will have the foundation to being highly productive and accomplish goals you never thought you could when you first started.

Focus is just one element of productivity. Learn HubSpot’s How to Be More Productive - Tools to Increase Employee Performance for further productivity mastery!

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