At work we strive to stay on target, much like Rebel X-wings gearing up for the trench run, ready to blow up the Death Star. All precision-focus and total concentration.
But, then - chime - "Ooh, e-mail!" and our precious, not-quite-laser-like focus is shot, much like Vader's damaged tie-fighter helplessly spinning off into the distance.
Outstanding sci-fi simile's aside, e-mail is a massive time-burglar and productivity sink-hole. The less you want to engage in a project or a must-do, the easier it is to get sucked into your inbox.
If this sounds familiar, Next Avenue's Cal Newport has the solution for you: focus blocks.
Newport says you can achieve the undistracted focus you desire by scheduling out specific times of your work day - focus blocks - and refusing to accept meetings, engage in e-mail or entertain anything not related to the task at hand.
"People are used to the idea that they cannot demand your attention during times when you already have a scheduled appointment," Newport notes. "The focus block technique takes advantage of this understanding to buy you time for undistracted focus without the need for excessive apology or explanation."
OK, so now people aren't bothering us during our focus block time. How do we get ourselves to actually, you know, focus?
Start with small blocks of time
Newport says begin with 1 hour and add 15 minutes every 2 weeks.
Tackle a clearly identified and isolated task
He uses the example of writing an article (ahem). If your task during a block is to write, use that time to actually write. This means you need to have your research done ahead of time. If you use your writing time to research, you’re not accomplishing what you want.
Use a different location for your block
A change of environment can help as you're not tempted by your usual environmental distractions.
Use pen and paper
When possible, go analog to accomplish your task. This is automatically pulls you away from the lure of a browser or e-mail.