We all hear the “minimalist” zealots screaming at us from on high,
“Sell your stuff, get rid of everything that isn’t important, use paper for everything, and be as minimal as possible.”
All this so we can regain focus on an important project as well as the things we have to do.
Sounds like a great idea, that is, as long as you work for yourself and work to sell the idea of being minimal. Don’t get me wrong – I try to minimize certain things in my life, but there are times this idea can be taken too far. We all can’t get rid of everything and many of us have to focus on things that we don’t want to do.
Instead of getting rid of all your stuff and “going minimal”, here is how you can use technology to stay focused and productive.
1. Create a system that supports, not complicates or simplifies
If you want to stay productive and focused in your complicated life you need a system. We have discussed many times at nauseam how to create and use a personal productivity system. Some say that we should “toss productivity out”. I couldn’t disagree more.
As long as you are creating a system that is just complicated enough to support your complex life but isn’t overcomplicated, you are good. Use one of the many awesome productivity tools that you have at your disposal.
2. Choose your notifications wisely
We here at Stepcase Lifehack prefer to keep notifications to a bare minimum, but don’t believe that they should be completely turned off (of course, that is other than email). What is more important is choosing your digital notifications wisely.
If you are working on a project during the day, it may be the best time to mute your phone or just turn it off all together. Maybe you want to turn email notifications off for a set period of time. There are also some awesome apps like Tasker for Android that allow you to setup all kinds of smart notification options based on time, calendar entries, and even location.
3. Setup times for “distractions”
Distractions is in quotes for a reason. I consider a distraction anything other than important projects that I must get done. This can be Twittering, IMing, SMSing, chatting, etc.
One of the best things that I have tried to implement during my day is that instead of blindly checking RSS feeds or tweeting something that would piss someone off anytime I want, I schedule that time instead. Schedule it in to your calendar and have time setup to “distract” yourself rather than focus on a project.
4. Guard your productive times
This is the other side of the “distractions” coin. We have to make sure that we protect our productive times with our life and limb so we can keep our focus. If you work in an environment where others can see your calendar appointments, make sure to block out some time during your day as a “meeting” so you can get stuff done.
5. Create and follow an “ignore list”
I’m a list maker, mostly because I can make them in almost any app I choose. Something that I heard on a recent The Accidental Creative podcase was from Peter Bregman about creating an “ignore list”. The idea is simple. Just make a list of all the things that you want to ignore. Done.
This is a great thing to do, especially if you are the geeky, technical, or creative type that wants to play and mess around with new stuff. That stuff wastes your time. Add them to your ignore list and then reevaluate the list every so often so you don’t break your focus.
6. Automate to get rid of the mundane and mindless
Using technology to automate things that we can do mindlessly is a great thing. This helps us recoup time and energy for other things as well as keep our focus our currently active task. Actions like paying your bills online, renaming photos, and even filing digital files can all be done automatically now with help of online payment systems and tools like Hazel.
Of course there are going to be important things to think through, but you might as well use technology to automate as much as possible.
You don’t have to lose the shirt off your back and give up your iPhone to regain focus. You can simply use amazing tools that are at your disposal to keep your focus on the things that are important and that you must get done.
(Photo credit: Stack of grey massage stones via Shutterstock)