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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

3 Ways to Force Yourself to Focus

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Everyone knows that focus is an important ingredient for success and that severe procrastination can derail even the most well thought-out projects.

Unfortunately, though, that knowledge alone is not always enough to force oneself to focus. So, in cases where extreme productivity is required, I suggest getting a little outside help. These three tools have been my favorite lifesavers.

1. Strict Workflow

This Chrome plugin is a simple way to try out the Pomodoro technique—a proven method that has you take five-minute breaks after 25-minute focused work increments.

Once installed, a simple click on your browser bar starts the timer for a 25-minute, distraction-free work session. During this time, the plugin blocks common distracting sites (like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit), and you can customize your settings to add your personal guilty pleasures. If you try to visit those sites, you’ll get a gentle reminder to get back to work. At the end of the 25 minutes, a timer rings and starts a five-minute break. Rinse and repeat for a productive day!

2. Full Screen, One Tab

This is one of my favorite focusing tools, which is built into every computer but widely underutilized.

The most distracting things about computers are all the tabs and apps and bouncing icons with notifications, so sometimes, all you need is the visual cue of where to focus your attention. Whether I’m working in Word, Chrome, or Photoshop, it always helps me to open just the file I need (or just the one tab, if you’re in a browser), and then enter full screen mode. Here’s the before-and-after of my draft for this article. Big difference, right?

3. Getting Offline

That’s right, this one isn’t a tool per se. But when all else fails, I suggest taking a break from your screen. Pick up a notebook, write down the #1 to do you need to tackle at the top of the first page, and find yourself a quiet place to work. If your desk isn’t working for you, try a change of scenery: a coffee shop, a park, or a couch in the office. I’ve found inspiration just from sitting at a colleague’s desk and seeing the office from a different perspective.

For the curious, I wrote this article in one Pomodoro session using Strict Workflow, and while in full screen with just this one tab. I prefer to write using my computer versus going offline, but I’m headed to the park now to brainstorm some variations of a product I’m working on. Here’s to a more productive, focused day!

Tell us, have you found a technique that helps you focus?

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