- Hack #4: Respect your time and make it respected.
- Hack #5: Stop multi-tasking. It merely kills your focus.
- Hack #6: Set up a work routine and stick to it. Your body will adapt.
- Hack #13: Group meetings and communication (email or phone) to create blocks of uninterrupted work.
- Hack #15: Work around procrastination. Procrastinate between intense sprints of work (Pomodoro).
- Hack #26: Take breaks. Sometimes.
1. Take control of your time online (on laptop)
1.1 StayFocusd (Chrome Extension)
StayFocusd is the focus police. The extension monitors your time spent on distracting websites (Facebook, YouTube, etc.). Once your time quota has been reached, distracting websites will be blocked.
The extension has a lot of options and allows you to:
– Define distracting websites: I added GMail, IMDb, amongst other.
– Change your quota for distraction: default is 30 minutes; it’s a good one but you can change it.
– Define monitoring hours. Example: you want to be restricted only between 9am-5pm and be free outside of those hours.
– Define monitoring days. Example: you don’t want to be restricted on weekends.
You can easily bypass the restrictions: simply go incognito or uninstall the extension. The extension is simply a deterrent, you still have to be disciplined. The idea is to be aware of how you spend your time. Numbers don’t lie (except a flipped over 6).
StayFocusd forces me to be effective on GMail:
1.2 timeStats (Chrome Extension)
timeStats is the focus accountant. Just like StayFocusd, it tracks your browsing. It can even block sites just like StayFocusd. However, it’s in its reporting capabilities that timeStats shines. It can give you detailed statistics as well as summaries of your browsing activity. I review my statistics every week to see how I have spent the week. Again, numbers don’t lie.
2. Block the noise (on mobile)
Below are steps for the “nuclear option”: turn off all notifications for a given app. If the app is non critical, let it notify you when you open it.
Go to Settings > Notifications Center.
- Under “Include”, touch a given App.
- Set “Alert Style” to “None”
- Set “Badge App Icon”, “Sounds”, etc. options to disabled.
Here are the list of apps that are allowed to notify me:
- Phone (and Google Voice)
- Messages (and Whatsapp, Viber)
- Evernote, for my alarms
For more information on the notification center, read this.
2.2. Turn off push email on iPhone/iPad
- Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data.
- Set “Push” option to disabled
- Set “Fetch” option to “Manually”
- Repeat and rinse for all your email clients.
3. Have the right state of mind
3.1. Take (scheduled) breaks
3.2 Have some background noise
Right after my morning coffee, I go to Coffitivity for my daily dose of background noise. It’s free.
4. Bonus (free) tools
- Focus@will has some great work music. It’s free for 1 hour of continuous music; reloading the page resets the timer.
- Feedly is my personalized newspaper. It centralizes all my news feeds (blogs, magazines, articles) into one place.
- Unroll.me organizes all my non urgent emails into one big newsletter. While I like GMail’s categorization, Unroll.me slashes even more unwanted notifications.
- Mind mapping is great way to organize your thoughts. I use it everytime I am stuck on a problem (technical or otherwise) or unable to figure out the next step to solve it. My favorite mind mapping tool is mind42 (for its keyboard shortcuts).
- I have always wanted to try meditation, but I never knew where to start. Headspace has been my gentle introduction to meditation: 10 minutes for 10 days. You can repeat the first 10 lessons as much as you want for free.