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Don’t Be a Minimalist: Regain Focus With Technology

Don’t Be a Minimalist: Regain Focus With Technology

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on May 7, 2021

    Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

    Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

    I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

    Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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    Relocate your alarm clock.

    Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

    Scrap the snooze.

    The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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    Change up your buzzer

    If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

    Make a puzzle

    If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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    Get into a routine

    Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

    Have a reason

    Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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    As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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