a young PSG at tandy trs-80 circ mid-1980s

How I work … when focus is elusive

Sometimes despite my best efforts at time blocking and removing distracting notifications, I’m still plagued by attention residue. It seems that no matter how hard I try, my brain refuses to go the direction I request. There are three things I do when this strikes: get active, get writing, and get a different task.

Get Active

I often let my brain override my need and decide that there’s no time to go out for a run. Heading out for a short (under 30 min) run is my favourite, though even walking up and down the stairs of my house for 5 minutes will help me refocus and wrangle a brain that wants to be everywhere at once. It doesn’t take long and in those five minutes of going up and down the stairs will often find me cleaning up a few little things along the way (as I pass through the kitchen to go between the basement and the bedrooms), and that little bit of doing helps create momentum.

I’m not alone:

Get writing

I am a fan of writing one journal page of anything each morning, similar to Julia Cameron’s Morning pages. While I write in a composition book, I’ve made it my practice never to reread as I write and never reread previous entries. This is just pure and complete brain dump of words. More than once the entire page has been filled with one word of eloquent french repeated until I ran out of page. merde. In addition, I set a timer and brain dump to a list. I make a new list just for this process and at the time I don’t review assign project or prioritize or schedule. I just write it all down. Sometimes I then toss this list out, either with a rm braindump-tasks.txt if I recorded it electronically, or crumple up the paper and throw it in the recycling bin (or shredder). Why? I have systems I trust for a reason. The likelihood that there’s something crucial in that list that doesn’t already exist in my systems is pretty close to nil.

I’m not alone:

Get a different task

You know the saying, money begets money, if the task really isn’t working and breaking it down into a smaller more manageable task isn’t possible, I find another task. Then I do it and cross it off my list. This helps create momentum and once I get that ball rolling again, I tend to stay focused. Sometimes it is a small mundane task related to the project, such as making sure my notes are up-to-date and everything is in my systems, or at other times it’s completely unrelated and the loose handle on the toilet tank finally gets fixed.

I’m not alone:

What do you do?