I took November, December, and most of January off from consulting and working on my personal projects (of which I have many). It was great for both my spirit and brain to not be multitasking, and learning to not feel guilty for being lazy. I highly recommend it.
Finding my focus has been a bit of a battle as I re-emerge myself into the work world, but I've been doing a few things to help out.
I created four focus rules tailored for me, and you should do the same! There are many out there. I find that concentrating on a few at a time is the best way for me to actually adopt.
1. I do not read email first thing in the morning. Email is a real buzz kill first thing in the morning. So many times I wake up, ready to save the world and then I read email and I get sucked into some horrible, miserable vacuum of never-ending conversations that didn't really need my immediate attention. It's like a bad movie I can't stop watching. Perhaps you have better self control, but I do not so I just don't read it when I wake up and I skip the part where I feel like I should start working or obsessing over what I need to do for clients from the moment I wake up.
2. I frontload my morning with the most important things in my life that I know make me happy and keep me healthy. I run, I write, I read, etc. I make one of those things my priority instead of letting them fall second to work. I do wake up at 5am to make this happen, I'm not going to lie. But I find when I've taken care of myself first in the morning, moving forward with the less sexy parts of my life goes a lot smoother.
3. I drink a glass of water when I wake up. I read somewhere a glass of water first thing in the morning wakes up all your cells and is overall good for your health. I don't know if it's true or not and I don't care. All I know is that when I do drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, my body responds well and it wakes me up so I do it.
4. I use the Pomodoro Technique when I do sit down to work. Pardon you ask? Yeah, when I sit down to do work, I break my tasks into 25 minute increments, with five minute breaks in-between. During those 25 minutes, I do not check email, Twitter, etc. I simply do my task. In my five minute breaks, I do all the things that normally throw me off track, mainly cruising the web. I really really love this technique as a way to get things done. Read more about it here. And if you need a timer for your desktop, I use Focus Booster. There a few great ones out there, but this one is the least obtrusive and it sits right on my desktop. If you're a consultant and have to track your time, this technique is especially helpful.
I've always been slightly obsessed with time, but even more so as I become more and more clear about how I want to balance my time. Our brains are always on these days given the number of devices that we have within reach and how it has become so easy to multitask. It is up to us to be disciplined and to discriminate against what really needs us and what is just white noise.
If you have interest in what others have to say about time, check out these great posts:
- Are you Really as Busy as you Think? by Laura Shin over at LearnVest
- The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time over at Farman Street Blog
Onwards. Here's to saving the world one pomodoro at a time!
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