What was I doing again??

This week I’ve been struggling with getting my To Dos done. Frankly, I’ve been distracted. Unfocused. Unproductive.   During my daily reflections at the end of the day, more often than not, I’ve had more fails than gains. Mostly the fails have occurred for my “study” item on my To Do list. One of my week’s Vision themes was to comprehensively get through a significant portion of study material… and progress has been minimal. I admit it, I’ve been putting it off. On the rare occasion that I actually did sit down to read my textbooks, I’ve found myself reading the words but not really taking anything in, thereby wasting oodles of precious time! Bah! (A Kicking Myself moment to be sure.) On the third day of miserable failure on this front, I did some research to find methods to nail down my focus. Lots of articles out there (like this one from Entrepreneur.com) point out how we’ve trained our brains to multi-task so well that we don’t know how to focus anymore. This makes sense when I find myself thinking about plans for dinner while reading about redox reactions (these two trains of thought do NOT visit the same stations and I end up getting nowhere).

One method I found fairly popular is the Pomodoro Technique created by Francesco Cirillo. It’s a simple system of breaking up your time into 25-minute periods, or one Pomodoro, to work on ONE task and then taking a short 3-5 minute break. Then after four Pomodori (the Italian plural of pomodoro), take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. I’ve adopted the 25 minute task period for my study sessions and not much else yet because I’m a pansy and if my brain really needs to be retrained, then I’m going to start slow so I don’t injure myself. After the first day and three Pomodori chemistry sessions later, I was able to really dig deep into a difficult chapter.

A great free read is from Leo Babauta, author of the Zen Habits blog and The Power of Less, called Focus. He discusses how our culture has changed to one of such connectivity to people and media that it’s become one of distraction as well as widely available knowledge. In his book, he gives concrete, actionable things to slowly rid yourself of distractions and your own bad habits of seeking out the distractions.

Here are this week’s Kick Me takeaways based on advice from the above resources:

  • SCHEDULE FOCUS TIME. I find myself with long blocks of time to get things completed. But when I don’t schedule specific priority tasks/projects to be done within certain blocks of time, I discover very few of those Must Do tasks get checked off the list. From 9am-11am, work on training presentation.
  • SET TIME LIMITS. Finding focus is a skill that you build over time. So do sprints, rather than try a marathon. Short periods of focus time separated by even shorter breaks to prevent fatigue; 25 minutes wax on, 5 minutes wax off (yes, that was a Karate Kid reference for all you Mr. Miyagi fans).
  • DISCONNECT. Put the cell on silent and stick in a drawer. Turn off the email alerts and don’t even log into Facebook or Twitter or whatever social website you have as your drug of choice. They’ll all be waiting for you later. I promise.

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences and attempts at disconnecting and finding their lost ability to “single-task”!