How to Exponentially Increase Focus by Removing Distractions

producHow many hours do you work each day?

That’s work as in, actually working. Not web surfing, chit chatting, and picking your nose.

You see most of us spend a lot of time doing the things listed above, among similar activities while we work. We then give ourselves credit for working or studying for three hours straight, when only a fraction of that time was actually getting anything done.

I remember in college I would always hear roommates, friends, and colleagues talk about how they had just put four hours in at the library. But when I would go to study with them they would spend half the time playing on their phone, surfing the web, finding a good playlist to listen to and worst of all distracting me!

This is a paradigm few people will ever break out of. In fact, I’ve only realized this because as a writer I only get paid when I’m typing. I don’t get paid to eat a snack or go take a piss.

For people who work an office job then this is irrelevant. If they put in face time for eight hours a day then they’ll keeping getting paid. However, for guys like me we only get paid for actually working (I’m aware of passive income, but that’s for another post).

The Wonderful World of Productivity

In the realm of internet marketers, bloggers, gurus and other folks, one of the topics has garnered a ton of attention is productivity. These writers would talk about their favorite ‘hacks’, tricks and techniques to boost productivity.

God, don’t these guys have anything else to talk about?

I thought this was bullshit. In fact, it seemed like a lot of those guys spent more time writing about productivity than actually being productive.

Productivity was something I had overlooked for a long time until the last year or two. I already had a daily regimen and schedule, plus I was disciplined. What do I need all these productivity tips for?

What I never considered was that productivity is more than just working hard and being organized. It’s about getting the most amount of work done in the least amount of time.

How can any person turn that down?

A Different Perspective

I’ve written about productivity in the past on a number of occasions.

I wrote about how to use Pomodoros to keep you pounding away at work.

I have an article and a ‘screencast’ video showing you my exact techniques for building discipline and creating habits.

Yet these articles, like most other articles, are just one piece of the productivity puzzle. Most productivity advice is geared towards doing something more, or finding some new trick, to increase productivity.

But what about doing less?

It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. The natural human response to solving a problem is to add something new to the mix, but what we often overlook is that perhaps we have too much which only ends up distracting us and syphoning off our valuable time and energy.

Here are a couple of things to consider helping you remove distractions and start getting shit done:

Turn Off the Internet

out of window

Okay, don’t go this far.

Although the internet is important, and in many cases essential for getting stuff done, it is a double-edge sword. For every minute you spend researching something helpful, you’re going to spend another minute or two goofing off; or at least that was the case for me.

What I’ve found is that it is better to completely turn off the internet when trying to get work done and to completely focus on writing.

I write and write as much as I can. After I’ve reached my target goal, or the hour is up, then I can turn on the internet to help me fill any gaps in my writing.

If that’s not an option or something you want to consider, then you must get this Chrome Extension:

The Stay Focused Google Chrome Extension

I found this gem after reading Victor Pride’s Blog Artist Handbook. It’s freaking phenomenal.

How it works is that you can take the time-wasting sites you frequently go to and add them to the ‘Blocked List’. You then set a timer (e.g. 20 minutes), and anytime you visit on of these sites the timer will count down. In the event you spend 20 minutes that day on those sites, the Stay Focused extension will completely block all those sites.

There’s also the ‘Nuclear Option’, which I’ve already used today. The nuclear option completely prevents you from using any websites! For me, it’s just a second line of defense in removing myself from the world-wide-web.

Ideally, our discipline would prevent us from doing this in the first place, but we’re not robots. We’re humans, and humans get distracted and develop cravings.

Get Work Done As Early As Possible

Not too long ago I posted about morning routines. I believe that all men need to create a routine to get the most out of their day.

However, one of the drawbacks of a routine is that we may be doing something that is negatively impacting us in our routines that we don’t even realize. Because of this I’ve been experimenting and seeing what works and what doesn’t in my routines. I encourage you to do this as well.

What I’ve noticed is that I get a ton of work done first thing in the morning. I simply get out of bed, get some water, turn on my computer and fire up Microsoft Word (After turning off the internet).

I then bang out a couple of Pomodoros, pounding out as many words as I can.

The reason this works so well is because the earlier you get down to business, the less distractions there are. Most people, especially on the weekends, prefer to wake up as late as possible. This means that you can dodge a barrage of emails, texts, notifications, small talk etc. by beating the pack out of bed.

On top of that, the later on the day gets the more distractions you get. What happens is that throughout the day we realize we need, or want, to do this and that and our work ends up on the back burner.

When you get all your work done, then you can play.

Just like when you were a kid.

Shut Out the Noise

I’ve been listening to more podcasts lately. Instead of listening to them for entertainment purposes, I’ve been listening to them for educational purposes.

Honestly, I could listen to these things all day long, but the issue is that these podcasts need to be listened to with clear focus and intent. If I were to work while listening to these podcasts, then either my work would suffer or I’d miss out on everything being said in the podcast.

Multitasking isn’t just something that is applied in the long-term, it applies to every minute of your life.

When you’re doing an activity, focus on it with all your attention.

For me, this means no music. Even classical can get in the way.

Some people listen to music while they work and they say it works for them. That’s cool. But oftentimes these people say they work better with music, when in fact they might benefit from not listening to any while working.

Always be experimenting.

Find a Suitable Work Environment

Although working from home gives you peace and quiet, I find it easy to get distracted.

I find I get a ton of work done when I leave the house. This is something I started back in college. I’d head to the library for a few hours because lord knows I wasn’t getting any work done in my fraternity house.

Sometimes, instead of going to the library I’d go to Starbucks. Starbucks is a terrible place to get work done. I only went with the intention of flirting with sorority girls, which rarely happened anyway.

The reason I hate working at Starbucks is twofold:

  1. It’s cramped: For the most part, Starbucks locations are pretty small. Yet, they have to accommodate all the customers so they’re forced to put as many tables and chairs in as possible. This means that while you’re working, someone’s breathing down your neck.
  2. It’s loud: I remember the last time I went to Starbucks, many months ago. I sat at their ‘bar’ because that was the only space open. A bunch of yuppies were at the bar too, chatting about the different coffee drinks like they were out schmoozing on a Saturday night. Unbelievable.

Not all Starbucks are created equally, but I much prefer Panera. When it’s not busy I can find a nice, quiet booth and get all my work done. There are a lot of cute girls that roll through which always diverts my eyes, but it is still better than Starbucks.

The best option for me, however, is my local library. They have a ‘Quiet Study Room’ which is just 10 small desks facing the wall with dividers in between them. It’s lovely. Actually it’s quite ugly, but lovely in a utilitarian sense.

Also, I’ve read it’s helpful to rotate the places you get work done. I’ve personally found this helpful, so it’s something you should consider as well.

Putting These Into Practice

As I mentioned earlier, I used to hate productivity geeks, but now I see where they’re coming from.

Think of it this way: If you spend 10 minutes reading about ways to boost productivity, and that helps you do 15 extra minutes of work, that’s 5 minutes more per day. That’s an extra 30-40 hours a year!

Do you have any good productivity tips?

I’m always looking for new ones and I’d love to hear them. Feel free to post them below.

image via businessnewsdaily