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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)

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

    How about a unique spin on things?

    These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

    1. Empty your mind.

    It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

    Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

    Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

    Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

    How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

    2. Keep certain days clear.

    Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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    This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

    3. Prioritize your work.

    Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

    Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

    Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    4. Chop up your time.

    Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

    5. Have a thinking position.

    Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

    What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

    6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

    To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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    Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

    7. Don’t try to do too much.

    OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

    8. Have a daily action plan.

    Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

    Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

    9. Do your most dreaded project first.

    Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

    10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

    The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

    11. Have a place devoted to work.

    If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

    But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

    Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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    Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

    12. Find your golden hour.

    You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

    Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

    Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

    Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

    13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

    It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

    By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

    Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

    14. Never stop.

    Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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    Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

    There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

    15. Be in tune with your body.

    Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

    16. Try different methods.

    Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

    It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

    Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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