When we think of focus, can’t help but think of Lightning McQueen’s first lines in Cars (weirdly childish reference, we know, but just go with it):
“Okay, here we go. Focus. Speed. I am speed. One winner, forty-two losers. I eat losers for breakfast. Breakfast? Maybe I should have had breakfast? Brekkie could be good for me. No, no, no, focus. Speed. Faster than fast, quicker than quick. I am Lightning.“
This quote basically sums up the way our minds work nowadays. We are generally aware of what we’re doing but intrusive thoughts just keep jamming themselves into our view. And with the slew of Slack, email, and Twitter notifications (among countless others) that constantly get bombarded at us, it’s hard to maintain razor focus.
Focus is often a matter of quieting the anxiety that comes with longer and longer to-do lists. If this is the case for you, perhaps take a look at your reflections in April, or reread our blogpost from that month. But focus may also have to do with quieting the things that are designed to compete for our attention, and also learning to practice impulse control. Here are this month’s focus hacks and a few related bits and baubles:
Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World is self explanatory and wildly popular. A good read, or reread (in our case). Try it if you haven’t. If you don’t want to, listen to this episode of Hidden Brain called “You 2.0: Deep Work” featuring Mr. Newport.
Last month’s post about the PERMA Questionnaire got a lot of traction. This month, try taking the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, also from the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness Center. It might give you some insight into what kind of activities you’d most easily get into “deep work” or “flow’ in.
Some of us don’t have very much impulse control with our cellphones, our muscle memory makes us open and reopen Instagram (even after we just closed it!) This episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask explained the science behind tech addiction. For more on this, read Catherine Price’s book called “How to Break Up With Your Phone.”
In the spirit of that book, but definitely not in the practice of it, here are some of the hacks we use to get the most out of our phones and laptops (and ourselves) without having to switch them off:
Automatically set your phone to go into “Do Not Disturb” mode at set times of day. Mine stops ringing for app notifications after 8 pm until the following day at 7 am (even though I wake up at 5:45).
Download an app like App Block which prevents you from opening certain apps (of your choosing) during certain times of the week and day. Work emails can be blocked on the weekend, Instagram Facebook and Twitter during work hours. This is perfect for people who need their phones on while they work but don’t want to get distracted by social media. App Block is an Android app, the iPhone equivalent is Freedom.to.
According to The Atlantic, and confirmed by Catherine Price (see above) turning your phone to grayscale helps you compulsively check notifications less. The grayscale eliminates the vibrancy of certain tantalising app icons. This trick is specifically in reference to iPhone, although most Android devices are also capable. Personally, I prefer using Whicons, an apk pack that allows you to change all app icons to an all white version. You’ll need a custom launcher app for this on Android. Look, so pretty!
That’s all for now.