1. Morning quiet. You start your day in quiet, before the busy-ness
of the world intrudes on your peace of mind. If you live with others,
you might want to wake before they do. The key to enjoying this focus
ritual is not going online. You can turn on the computer if you just
want to write. You can have coffee or tea and read. You can meditate
or do yoga or do a workout or go for a run. Or take a walk. Or sit
quietly and do nothing. The key is to take advantage of this peaceful
time to rest your mind and focus, however you like.
2. Start of day. Begin your work day by not checking email or any other
distractions, but start a simple to-do list on paper or with a text file.
On this blank to-do list, just list your three Most Important Tasks. Or
if you like, just list the One Thing you really want to accomplish today.
This helps you to focus on what’s important. Even better: continue
this focus ritual by starting immediately on the top task on this short
list of Most Important Tasks. Single-task on this important task as
long as you can — ideally until it’s done. Now you’ve started your day
with focus, and you’ve already accomplished something great.
3. Refocus ritual. While the start of day ritual is great, there are lots
of things that get in the way to distract you, to mess up your focus.
So every hour or two, do a refocus ritual. This only takes a minute
or two. You might start it by closing down your browser and maybe
other open applications, and maybe even take a walk for a couple
of minutes to clear your head and get your blood circulating. Then
return to your list of Most Important Tasks and figure out what you
need to accomplish next. Before you check email again or go back
online, work on that important task for as long as you can.
Repeat this refocus ritual throughout the day, to bring yourself back.
It’s also nice to take some nice deep breaths to focus yourself back on the
4. Alternate focus and rest. This is almost like intervals in exercise
— alternating between periods of hard exercise and rest works well
because it allows you to do some pretty intense exercise, as long as
you allow yourself some rest. Focus works much the same way —
if you give yourself built-in periods of rest, you can get some great
periods of focus. There are many variations on this, but some ideas
might include: 10 minutes of focus + 2 minutes of rest; 25 minutes
of focus + 5 minutes of rest; 45 minutes of focus + 15 minutes of rest.
You get the idea — you’ll need to experiment to find the length and
mixture that works best for you. Some prefer short bursts and others
like longer periods of undisturbed creativity.
5. Alternate two focuses. Instead of alternating between focus and
rest, you could alternate between two different focuses. For example,
you could work on two different projects at once, or study for two
different classes at once. I’d suggest not switching too rapidly, because
there’s a short period of adjustment each time you switch. But you
could work for 10 minutes on one thing and then 10 on another, or
stay focused on one as long as you are interested in it, then switch
when your interest lags. The great thing about this method is that
switching to a new project can help give your brain a rest from the
other project, and it can keep you creating for much longer before
6. Communicate first, then blocks of focus. Set a timer and give
yourself 45 minutes to do email, Twitter, Facebook IM, and any reading
you would normally do. Then use an Internet blocker to block these
distractions for a couple of hours (up to 3-4 hours if you like) while
you focus on creating. Then another 45 minutes of communicating
and reading, followed by another block of distraction-free focus.
7. End of day. At the end of each day, you might review what you did,
think of what can be improved, remind yourself to disconnect for the
rest of the evening, and think about what you’ll focus on tomorrow.
It’s a good time to reflect on your day and your life in general.
8. Weekly focus rituals. While it’s not necessary to do a complete
weekly review of everything you’re doing, have done and plan to do,
it can be useful to schedule 10 minutes every week to quickly bring
your work and life back into the right focus. I suggest you review
your projects to make sure you’re not letting them get out of hand;
simplify your to-do list as much as possible; review the focus rituals
you’ve been doing to see what’s working and what isn’t; and basically
reflect on what you’re doing with work and life and whether anything
needs to change.
9. Other ideas. The rituals above are just some of the ideas I like best
— you should find the ritual that works best for you. There are an
almost infinite number of possibilities. Just a few other ideas: taking
5 minutes every hour to refocus yourself; taking a walk every hour to
get fresh air and get refreshed; yoga or meditating at the beginning
of each day; running or other exercise after work; giving yourself a
“focus and disconnected hour” in the morning and afternoon where
you’re disconnected and completely focused on creating; breathing
and self-massage techniques for relaxation and better focus.
photo by P0RG
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