Leave the Spouse and Cut the Rice in Half

Niaw de Leon
Apr 16 · 4 min read

6 Unconventional Tactics for Sharper Focus

The need to focus can’t be overstated. Countless articles have been screaming at us that being constantly available and getting distracted by social media destroys our productivity and gets us stressed. There’s even an entire book saying that the inability to focus is what’s preventing us from acquiring a great career.

Despite all that advice, it’s still difficult to actually implement since there’s a strong need to personalize the approach for our own environment and situation. That’s why I’ve listed down some oddly specific tactics that have helped me sharpen my focus in order to hopefully spur you into creating your own set of tactics.

Ready? Here we go.

Eat half a serving of rice for lunch

I don’t care if you eat an entire whale for dinner. Actually, scratch that. Please don’t eat a whale for dinner; they’re adorable. What I meant was: I don’t care how much you eat for dinner but lunch is a different matter. It’s usually at the middle of the workday and in my case, can tank my entire afternoon if I eat a heavy meal. Eating half a serving of rice or eating a light lunch helps me stave away the rage-inducing—not to mention distracting—hunger without turning me into a zombie for the rest of the afternoon.

Put a sheet of paper and a pen on your right-hand side

Sometimes I’m well on my way to deep focus land when I suddenly get jolts in my brain compelling me to Google something because there’s some piece of information it must have, like, say, “Do undead dragons breathe undead fire?” or “What is the nature of time”? Never mind if it’s irrelevant to what I’m currently doing; my brain just tells me it has to know right now or it won’t let me proceed with my work.

The only way my brain would let go of its bite on my arm is if I write the questions down and promise my brain that its curiosity shall be satisfied at a later time and that burning question will be answered by Quora or Google after I’ve finished my current tasks.

Note-taking apps like Evernote could also work but I have to be able to write the note down within 10 seconds so as not to interrupt my current flow. Hence the piece of paper on my right side for easy access.

Hack your clothes

Before you take out that axe, I mean hack in the metaphorical 90s tech sense of tweaking and experimenting.

When I really need to focus, I wear a hoodie. Maybe it’s an association with productivity that I’ve built up or the way it blocks out my surroundings that helps me focus. Either way, it helps, so I do it when I need to focus.

Also, when I’m working from home—which is most of the time—I sometimes wear office clothes to convince myself I’m in work mode. Whether it’s placebo or it actually works, it does get the work done for me.

Lose your phone

Your phone makes you temporarily stupid. A 2017 study found that the mere presence of your phone reduces cognitive capacity—even if it’s turned off.

I didn’t actually know that until I wrote this, but the reason I try to put my phone out of arm’s reach is so that I don’t get tempted to pick it up, open Facebook, and start scrolling for hours.

Sometimes I just try to “forget” my phone in another room or don’t even bother getting it from its charging station before starting to work. Now, depending on your situation, you’ll have to find some other tactic like locking it in a drawer or asking someone to hold it for you. Whatever you choose, I urge you to try it out, especially if you’re like me who has unfortunately developed an autopilot mode where I would mindlessly open social media before my conscious mind even realized it.

Listen to the “Deep Focus” playlist on Spotify

I like the Deep Focus playlist because there’s no lyrics but the atmospheric sounds help transport me into a focused state of mind. I don’t know if it’s the music itself or simply an association I’ve built between this playlist and productivity that help me, so perhaps finding a playlist that you can associate with productivity would be sufficient.

The playlist is also mildly inspiring but not enough to get me dancing, which tends to happen when I listen to EDM. I mean, dancing’s not bad on its own but when you’re trying to develop, say, a lead generation strategy, it can get tricky to do both at the same time.

Tell your spouse, colleagues, or team that you’ll be “leaving” for 45 minutes

Interruptions are hell for productivity. That’s why when I’m working at home, I would often tell my other half that I’m “leaving into work land” for the next 45 minutes, put on my earphones, pull down my hoodie and smash away into the keyboard.

Why is this important? Why not just go straight into it?

Well, firstly, you’re letting them know that you won’t be hearing them, so they don’t feel ignored when they try to talk to you.

Secondly, they’re less likely to interrupt you if you’ve notified them in advance that interruptions will make you scream in frustration.

If you’re working in an open plan setting, you’ll have to find some other physical way of signaling that you’re not to be a disturbed. A hat, perhaps? Regardless, if you don’t find a way to manage interruptions, your productivity will suffer the way Manila residents have suffered from the water crisis and rotating brownouts these past few weeks.

Got more?

These are some of the techniques I’ve found that work for me. How about you? Share them in the comments below.

Niaw de Leon

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I wield words to tame technology | Author of Microcopy http://amzn.to/2rP44Is