Tag Archive | focus

Becoming a Time Lord: Theme Days

I no longer subscribe to the meticulous scheduling and monitoring of time in search of a vaguely pornographic idea of efficiency. However, you can’t just turn off that kind of obsession with productivity cold-turkey, nor would I want to. While there may be nothing wrong with just enjoying life in a miasma of yummy food and comic books, I still have the drive to accomplish something more. To paraphrase a friend of mine, living a life of beautiful excess is not the same as living an excessively beautiful life.

After several months of pretty tenacious scheduling (both in paper and on my calendar) as well as trying out a few different methodologies (Ink & Volt, for example) I’ve hit upon a technique that seemed promising to me.

Theme Days

It’s a version of the old “Maker/Manager Time” idea.

Right now there are three big projects that require my attention. One is a big conference I’m directing for Memorial Day Weekend; one is a series of Open Spaces I’m doing throughout North America in the next year; and one is building a non-profit organization designed to promote the practice and understanding of consent. My previous strategy had been to try and devote at least an hour (preferably two or three) to each every single day.

That was working, but only up to a point. I found myself, over and over again, getting into a groove only to have my schedule tell me it was time to change a task. Or, more often, Life would interrupt – someone dear to me needing a ride, or a household chore coming up, or some such. Sure, I could say “no” – and many productivity gurus hold that as the key to success – but to me that would be at the cost of the kind of life I want to lead – where I am available to spend time with loved ones, where I have the slack to handle the shocks that come up or to enjoy the unexpected beauty of any given moment.

Now I’m Trying Out Theme Days. The idea is that Tuesday through Thursday are each a “Theme” day, where the focus of the day will be each particular project. I don’t use the word “focus” as such, because I don’t want to be so hypervigilant on my task that I don’t notice the rest of life. What I’ve found, though, is that when you have the day devoted to a particular project, when interruptions happen it’s less disruptive – because there’s no question about what you’re going to come back to.

Certainly other projects come up and demand my attention – but I have a way to continue the arc back towards the Theme. For example, when I was working on the Consent project one day, the head of security for the big conference pinged me. He wanted a meeting, and by mentioning that I was trying to work on this other project he kept his questions short and concise. We were able to mutually meet the needs and I was able to dive right back into the project.

And the time! Oh, it’s luxurious. I don’t have to wonder if I can cram what needs to be done into an hour or two. I have the whole day. And I can keep the day on the Big stuff, and leave the little things to the other days.

Push Days

That’s the burning question, right? “If those three days are Theme days, what do you call the other days?” I was honestly struggling with this until a writer for Fast Company, David Finkel, wrote an article about his version of this time hack. He uses “Focus Days” (and is much more precise about not letting anything else interrupt them) but the other days he calls “Push Days”: “…where you just push your normal projects another step forward.”

That works for me: Mondays and Fridays are “Push Days”, when the task list can be long and tedious and it’s ok because the Big Stuff will be dealt with later. That “later” is important, though. This isn’t a spur-of-the-moment time hack: it requires planning.

It’s not just looking at your calendar and saying, “Okay, I’ll carve out two hours for myself tomorrow for sure”—because tomorrow is way too late. Something else will inevitably pop up to sideline your plan. Instead, you need to have a recurring, definite appointment with yourself, blocked out on your calendar, week after week. That way, it’s a lot harder to stand yourself up. – David Finkel

I began this particular time hack last week, combining it with another process that I’ll talk about in the next Life post. It’s hard at times – but I am catching the glimmer of a sea-change in the way I deal with time. There is a luxurious glee to divorcing yourself from the clock – there are moments when I no longer feel like my cherished projects are being slowly starved for time.

Then the anxiety comes back, of course. This is a process, not a destination. I’d love to hear how you carve out time for your projects. What do you sacrifice? What do you gain?


I welcome Natasha Bounds from Intention at Home to the Love Life Practice team, and this is the first of what I hope will be regular contributions!

No, this is not a post about setting up time in your schedule or doing certain exercises for the next 30 days. It’s not that kind of challenge. This challenge is more cerebral. I am going to ask you to challenge the way you perceive mindfulness in everyday life.  I am going to ask you to think about how you can incorporate mindfulness in a way that doesn’t feel like something separate or extra.

We all live busy stressful lives and there is a lot going on the world right now that may be adding to your stress level. Mindfulness gives us an opportunity to slow down and enjoy life.  It doesn’t have to look like getting up everyday and meditating or sitting cross-legged in a field of wildflowers chanting. That would be easy. It isn’t that…obvious.

What it looks like is being present. It looks like slowing down to eat a meal, maybe even putting away your phone and turning off the television.  There was a time that we would sit down at a table and actually enjoy our food and talk to one another.

Weird, huh? I am not asking you to change your whole life around, just asking you to try to shake it up a little. Eating slowly helps your digestion and having actual conversations with people about how they are doing helps us get out of our heads.  I spend way too much time thinking about what I need to get done, what do we need in the house, how am I going to get ALL THE THINGS done?

The problem I find when I am up in my head that way is that it becomes very difficult to sit down and actually do any of cleaning, work, or relaxing I have been obsessing about!

So, how can you become mindful about these things?

  1. Stop. Yes, stop.  I want you to take a breath. It really can be as simple as just stopping what you’re doing and slowing down your breathing. When we start trying looking at everything we have to do we can become stressed or panicky.  This, for a lot of us, means shallow quick breathing which does nothing to help the feeling. There is most likely nothing so urgent that you can’t just stop and slow your breathing down.
  2. Focus. What needs to be done first? Do it and then move on to the next task.  I know we all think we do this a lot more than we actually do it. It’s next to impossible to complete multiple tasks simultaneously and have them done well. Figure out the steps and then do each one in order not worrying about the next one until the current one is done. This is being present.
  3. Gratitude. Have an end time and congratulate yourself for the things that you WERE able to accomplish. It does us no good to sit and think about everything we didn’t get done. We can’t create more time and things did get done.  All you can do is step away from it, congratulate yourself what you have accomplished and move on to the next part of your day.  Doing these things then gives you the opportunity to sit and enjoy them.

See there ? Little steps and you didn’t even have to pull out your meditation cushion or burn any incense.  

You should try and let me know how it goes.  I want to hear about what works for you.

You can read more of Natasha’s thoughts and suggestions at http://intentionathome.com . Image is used courtesy of Nickolai Kashirin.

Attention Spackle


It’s one of those things that is probably older than most of language (you can totally imagine pre-literate man daubing mud at holes in his cave wall). One of the best life hacks I ever learned as a young man was the trick of using toothpaste as spackle. And there is a visceral satisfaction in taking a spackle knife and smoothing out a place where previously there had been a hole.

Come with me on a metaphor: let’s think of your ability to focus, to devote your full attention (or even most of it) to any one particular task as a house. We don’t necessarily need it to be a fancy house, but it would be nice if it were sturdy; we have learned the lesson that multi-tasking doesn’t work, after all, and “focus is the new IQ” has become the battle cry of productivity gurus everywhere.

It follows that all the many distractions of life are things that poke holes in our sacred dwelling of attention. Some you can’t get away from. The need to sleep, eat, the requirements of caring for those who depend on us (whether that’s your boss or your kids).

These things will require your attention, but then again, they are kind of the whole purpose of your Temple of Focus. Being able to give your children your full attention? What a gift for them! Being deliberate and mindful in your eating and sleeping – what a luscious delight! The whole reason you practice focus and attention is for these important things, including whatever it is that you want to focus on – writing, building, doing the things that, when you can pay attention, you know are your purpose in life.

The Pokey Bits

Unfortunately, more and more we live in a world that treats our Temple of Focus less like a sanctum sanctorum and more like a balloon that needs to be popped. Notifications, commercials, billboards, instant messages, status updates, games that trick you into spending more time on them than you’d like.

And they are tricksy. Let me give you an example: I know a person who plays Two Dots as a deliberate kind of self-medication, enjoying the sense of relaxation and focus before beginning work for the day. I saw them playing and get to the point where they had finished a level, ready to put it down and get on with their day – and they stopped. “Oh!” they exclaimed as they read the little popup from the game. “It will give me infinite lives for the next hour!” And sure enough, they picked the game back up. I didn’t think about it until later, but it occurred to me: they own the game on their phone. They can play it any time they want. Don’t they already have infinite lives?

How clever does a game have to be to create an artificial scarcity with nothing but a “limited-time offer” for something you already have all the time?

Spackling Your Sanctum Sedulitas

OK, so I made up that Latin phrase, but you get the idea: your Place of Assiduous Attention. How can we protect it from the Pokey Bits, when the Pokey Bits are getting more and more clever all the time? Here’s some practices you can try this week:

  • Turn off data for cellular on your phone. That will at least keep you from surfing when you’re not in a WiFi zone.
    • Find out what apps you reach for automatically on your device. Delete them. (Relax. They’re still available on your computer).
    • Using GPS Navigation? Try listening to directions, not watching your screen (note: this will almost certainly result in you missing a turn until you get re-conditioned to pay attention to your environment again).
    • Take a moment to deliberately clean your screen/glasses/phone before using it, as a ritual of intention and preparation. (Yes, I stole this completely from Westworld on HBO).
    • If you’re feeling frazzled, spread thin, your attention divided, stop. Just start counting back from 20. As the numbers decrease, you will come back to what it is that actually needs your attention – and other things will have fallen away. Just remember: what you think needs your attention at 20 may not be what you realize needs it at 1.

What do you use for attention spackle? I should make it clear that there’s no “right” or “wrong” to these tips – they’re only what work for you (my friend did not spend the whole hour on their “infinite lives” – they use the game very deliberately). But just as almost every homeowner has a little plastic tub of sparkle under their sink or on a basement shelf, it’s a good idea to know what you have available to patch up the holes when you need to focus.

Because those Pokey Bits aren’t going away any time soon…

When Motivation Fails, Grit Gets You Going

As I write this, I’m growing a tree.

Not literally, of course. There’s this nifty little app called “Forest” that has a pretty fun twist on the whole “focus time” method. It’s kind of a productivity Tamagotchi, in that you set an amount of time – say, 25 minutes – and you hit “start”. A little animated tree starts growing on your screen. Right now it’s just a tiny twig and a couple of leaves.

Here’s the catch: if I pick up my phone for anything else, the tree will die. Right there on my phone, the leaves will drop off leaving nothing but a withered husk.

If I leave the tree there to grow, then it will chime merrily and I will see the fully-grown tree in my “daily forest”, as well as earning points towards “unlocking” other trees (personally I want the Japanese fir with a little Go board at the base). Kudos to the app for not making these upgrades “pay to play” (or at least making it hard to find a way to do that).

In fact, since the app is created by an organization that has been planting real trees for decades, you can even trade in your points towards having them plant a real tree. So maybe I am growing a tree as I write this. Just very, very slowly…which, as it happens, is how trees grow.

But that’s the point of this post.

Motivation, Where is Thy Sting?

Today’s one of those days when the voice in my head is full of “Don’ wanna!” Excuses, ranging from “Real people take a vacation this time of year!” to “Hey, you made some money yesterday, you deserve a day off!” I even have the voice saying “Your content publishing schedule is totally self-imposed and arbitrary and it’s not like anyone is reading/listening anyway. Why bother?

None of those voices are true. There are “real” people working today. The money I made yesterday has no bearing on today. And you’re reading this right now, so even if it’s just you and me in this together, (cue Morpheus from the Matrix voice ) We are still here!

A lot of productivity tips are about things like motivation, headspace, affirmations, manifestos and such. That’s great, and when it works, that’s all well and good.

Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes knowing that you have access to thousands of yoga videos is not enough to get you on the mat. Having thirteen different apps for making daily schedules and forty three notebooks and seven calendars and a whiteboard and a personal assistant still won’t get you out of the chair where you’re scrolling through Twitter.

Sometimes it’s a little animated tree. Sometimes it’s a Spotify playlist, or just a moment to send a whiny message to your dear ones saying “I really don’ wanna!

If you’re fortunate, like me, their responses will be empathetic, but unflinching: So sorry, dear. Wish life worked that way. Here’s some coffee.

Each of those tiny little things is like a grain of sand, both irritating you and also giving you traction. Eventually you work your way out of the rut and just a bit forward. It’s not miraculous, it’s not easy, and it’s not even pleasant. It’s grit, after all, and the best that can give you is a feeling of grim satisfaction: I am no longer there. I am here, now. And then you start over.

I may be wrong, but it’s possible that 2017 is going to require a lot of grit. A lot. Might want to start building the mental version of a “Go-Bag” – the things that will get you going when the going gets meh.

Spread Yourself Thick

My friend Michele Serchuk, a New York photographer, was talking with me about a new project of hers involving “modern fairy tales”. We were thinking of the ways that moral lessons were conveyed through the classic stories, and what modern lessons might be useful.

One in particular that came to mind was the idea of spreading yourself too thin. The danger of the Multi-tasking Monster, the Perfidy of Prowling Perfectionism, something like that. We speculated on the images that might illustrate the idea – something like the scene from the movie Brazil where a hero is overwhelmed by paper.

Shortly after that conversation I began Cal Newport’s new book, Deep Work. I have my own problems with Mr. Newport’s philosophy, but on the whole I agree that working in concentrated flow states is preferable to splitting attention and time among many different projects. Even worse is when you add in the distraction of social media, entertainment, the need to keep up and avoid FOMO, or whatever other demands you might put on yourself in your quest to be Good.

Or is that just me?

Regardless, I also noticed at the time that I was working on a whole lot of my own projects at once – not as many as my Ally, but still a lot. Meanwhile, there is one particular project that is looming on the horizon that required more immediate attention.

I realized that I had, thanks to Michele and Cal’s work, an early-warning sign and a chance to make a choice:

  • I could continue to work incrementally on many projects, making the one big one more stressful, making minimal gains on the others, and increasing the odds that I would either do them poorly or miss things altogether.
  • Or I could put all the other projects on hold, devote real time to both working on the main project and keeping myself rested and healthy and at the top of my game.

In other words, in stead of spreading myself thin, I could choose to spread myself thick over this one project and really bring it home strong.

Guess which one I chose?

Here’s my question: what do you have in your life that you could spread yourself thick on? Why not give it a try, and see how it changes the experience?

I promise, there’ll be plenty to thin you out later if you need it. Try some luscious focus, some decadent dedication to a single beautiful thing in your life. I think you’ll be glad you did.

I’d love to hear what you chose, and why you chose it.
Also, please send the post to a friend – the more the merrier!

What Kind of Tires Do You Have?

Seth Godin is a master of the concise and meaningful blog. I am in awe of his ability to take a hundred or so words and convey a concept that leaves one going hmmmm… for hours afterwards.

His post “Tires, Coffee, and People” is a good example of that. Read it yourself (it won’t take long).

Don’t have time for another click? Ok, you can save it for later. Basically, he’s saying that it’s the tires that make the car, it’s the beans that make the coffee, and it’s the people that make an organization work well – or not.

I’m going to extrapolate that and say it’s the people that make a relationship.

The problem he identifies is that “…we spend money on 4 wheel drive instead of snow tires.” In other words, we invest in the gimmicks rather than the solid ingredients. How does that map to relationships?

Well, maybe you’re busy reading blogs about ways to spice up your relationship rather than actually talking to your partner about what they want.

Maybe you’re busy reading blogs about parenting rather than rolling on the floor with your child.

Maybe you’re reading another book about zen buddhism instead of putting your butt on a cushion – oh, sorry. That last one was me.

But you see the point? Take a look at your relationships, especially the ones you’d like to improve. What are the actual necessary ingredients? What is distracting you from them?

What are you going to do about it?

One thing you can do: send this blog to a friend, and see what they think…
Thanks for reading!


Where’s Your Focus?

There’s a neat little extension for the Chrome browser called Momentum. All it does is affect what happens when you open a new tab. Usually with Chrome there’s either a default home page (such as your email) or else there’s a bunch of icons of frequently-visited or past web pages.

Momentum changes that. Instead it puts up a breathtakingly beautiful picture, shows you what time it is (and a few other details you can customize) and (the first time you use it each day) asks: “What is your focus today?”

You type in whatever it may be – often for me I simply type in the one-word mantra that I chose for the day’s 5-minute journal – and from then on, for the rest of the day, whenever you open a new tab, you are reminded of that focus.

Screenshot 2015-03-11 10.21.03What’s the Point?

Well, first of all you’re cutting down on the temptation to go off down the rabbit-hole of chasing emails and looking at other websites. Instead you’re reminded, quite gently, of what you’ve chosen to focus on.

That’s important. I actually started today with the intention of writing about perspective, of taking the long view of time. But what I keep coming back to is the fact that “the long view” is an illusion. It is a hope, a dream, a fiction, and worse we really have NO control over it. None. I’m sorry, but the best you can hope for is to influence it, to create probabilities of what you want to have happen. It’s not ever control. And to paraphrase the Dread Pirate Roberts, anyone who says differently is selling something.

But the future is also the result of the billions and trillions of microscopic decisions we make, moment to moment, added up. And that is a place where we do have control. We can choose, every moment, where we focus. Where our energies (I mean literally: the amount of glucose and muscle power and brain synaptic firings you have each day) are going to be aimed.

Momentum helps with that, in its own special way. Other things can, too – ABMann’s journal of Franklin’s virtues, the necklace Natasha wears to remind her of our commitment to each other, the pictures of my grandsons I carry on my phone. All of these are talismans with the power of re-focusing our intent.

I’m not saying you should give up your daydreams of a bright future. Frankly, just watching the trailer for Tomorrowland has me staring off into space dreaming of flying cars and talking watches. But remember that it’s only as real as the very next decision you make as you finish this blog and close the web page.

What’s your next tab going to be?


control your notifications

Signal to Noise

What demands your attention?On Friday we talked about how it is a misnomer to think that the urgent and the important cannot – or do not – coexist for all of us. I mentioned that the real problem was differentiating between the urgent and the noisy.

“Noise” is a powerful word – and it’s different than sound. We rely on sounds to let us know things are going well – such as the sound of a car engine. The first time I rode in a hybrid and the engine shut down while we were still moving I was unnerved by the lack of noise – something must be wrong! In fact, there are “minimum sound requirements for hybrid and electric vehicles” to keep pedestrians safe when crossing the street. Similarly, when you hear that extra grinding sound when you put on the brakes, you know it’s time for a visit to the repair shop.

Both of those sounds were signals – that is, they convey useful information about the environment. The car is running. The brakes need fixing. At the same time, though, there is a lot of noise going on that is not conveying useful information – the birds outside, the wind blowing, the radio playing music. Not that the music isn’t entertaining, which, yes, is a kind of useful – but it isn’t necessarily conveying information. In fact, the entertainment may actually be hiding the information you need – which is why turning up the radio so you can’t hear the grinding brakes is probably not the best strategy.

Your Personal S2N

Part of separating the truly urgent things from the noise in your life comes with your electronic presence. There are many techniques for it – “Inbox Zero”, choosing an email-checking schedule, “analog time” (when you don’t use anything electronic). One of the founders of a powerful social media tool called Buffer has his own strategy: the Zero-Notification Challenge.

Joel’s idea was to simply turn off all the notifications – aggressively called “push” in the Apple iPhone world – on his phone. No more “You’ve got mail” tones, no twitter updates, no Sports or News flashes, no Facebook likes except when he chose to look at them.

I have no excuse that a notification came in. If I check it too frequently and find myself procrastinating, it is only my fault: I went out of my way to go and look.

When I read about this last week I was intrigued, and in my gung-ho way I went to try it out. Then I realized that I was working a conference that would have many social and organizational demands…and so I simply shut off most of the notifications. I suspect the organizers are grateful, since it let us pull off a wonderful event.

All Things in Moderation

Perhaps “zero” is a bit of overkill. I know that while I’m good at “inbox zero” (emptying my email inbox) I also tend to compulsively check it in case more emails have cluttered up my box – and that means I check my email more, not less.

Similarly, I found that while I don’t have as many beeps and flashing letters on my phone, I also tend to impulsively check twitter and my messages to see what I might have missed. At least it makes me more aware of what social media outlets I spend my time on, and helps me figure out where I can better control my focus in the future.

That’s the challenge for this week’s practice: try turning off most, if not all, of your notifications. At the very least, take a look at what your devices are trying to tell you and make it a conscious decision. And as always: let me know how it goes in the comments!

There are two types of people: One strives to control his environment, the other strives not to let his environment control him. I like to control my environment – George Carlin

I promise not to over-notify you
even when you’re a Patron!
Support Love Life Practice  on Patreon today!

the focused browser practice

A Simple But Profound Change

Last week I said some harsh (for me) things about Cal Newport and his ideas in So Good They Can’t Ignore You. I stand by my evaluation of that particular manifesto, but I don’t want to discourage you from reading more of his work at the Study Hacks blog; it’s a regular read for me, and in particular this entry on focused web surfing during the day seemed like a good practice to try out. “No clickbait. No Facebook. No blogs (except, of course, Study Hacks…)” he says.

When you eliminate the chance of web surfing, you tend to be more efficient in processing your work. (The way I see it is that I’d rather finish my day an hour early than sprinkle an hour of time wasting throughout.)Of equal importance, the simplicity of the rule — no web surfing, no exceptions — makes it easy to avoid this temptation when trying to work deeply, thus preventing unnecessary ego depletion.

Now, I confess I found it a little strange that there was an external link to the “unnecessary ego depletion” phrase – that, plus other ads on his blog, would seem to be a bit hypocritical in the realm of “focused browsing.” In fact, in the midst of writing this post I found myself on Amazon looking to see if any of those books he recommends were in the Amazon Prime free reading list (I’ll save you the clicking: they aren’t). I also have to question the idea that it is more “efficient”; to me, the efficiency of a process is not so much a matter of speed as of quality. In other words, if I write a blog post quickly, because I didn’t follow up any outside links, it may not be as good as one where I spent some time wandering through related topics and gaining a deeper or broader understanding of the topic.

Reminds me of a time when I was asked to teach a class on “speed rigging” for some aerialists. My response was “Sure – but I get to pick what speed.”

courtesy Ngo Quang Minh, Flickr CC

Not that browsers make it easy…

Every Little Bit Helps

At the same time, I did take that challenge and found it did have a kind of “purifying” effect for me. If I was tempted to check twitter, or Facebook, or any other article, I was more quick to catch myself and say “No…” and get back to the job at hand. The net result was that at the end of my workday it was easier to point out to myself what I had accomplished, and that in turn made it easier to allow myself to relax.

I’d recommend you try it out this week. Just give a couple of days and aim for that “pure” web browser history that shows that everything you did on the web had a purpose – even if that purpose was a moment of entertainment. It’s an incremental change towards a more focused day in general, and since we know that multitasking doesn’t work, that’s got to be a good thing.

Let me know how it goes, and I’ll read your responses on the Love Life Practice Podcast next week!

Many thanks to my patrons like Harry
who help keep this blog going.
Want to pitch in?
Just click here!

the true cost of distraction

Paying Attention

Over the weekend I had one of those epiphanies. One of those moments that changes your perspective on things, that makes you suddenly see the elephant in the room.

Specifically, it’s the metaphor of the elephant as being the bulk of our subconscious psyche – our emotions, our habits, our desires. It’s an example used by Jonathan Haidt in his book The Happiness Hypothesis. He also posits a rider perched on top of the elephant symbolizing the conscious mind, riding this massive, powerful animal. If it were a contest of strength, the elephant obviously wins, right? The rider can’t use force to make the elephant go somewhere. The entire process of self-improvement is figuring out ways to persuade, trick, distract, or train the elephant to do what the rider wants.

Enter social media. Suddenly the rider becomes just another voice in the maelstrom of sensory inputs. The poor, harried, distracted elephant suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous updates. The elephant wants to go where the rider directs, but there are just so many confusing directions possible to go, and many of them seem like innocuous detours but end up in miresome swamps of time-guzzling clickbait.

But this isn’t just another “We should all focus better” post. No, this one is different.

The Value of Me

A friend of mine recently shut down his Google apps. No more Gmail, no more Drive, no more Docs. Instead he’s switching to Apple’s cloud-based apps – iCloud, etc – which offer much of the same functionality.

Still, it seemed rather strange to me. When I asked him why he was doing it, he said it was because he objected to the way Google used the data of his online activities to target advertising, etc. It’s the argument that your data belongs to you, and if you’re using something for free it means that you are the product.

I’m familiar with that argument, and I still use Google, mainly because I find their apps convenient. As for the data they gather on my website usage, that’s ok with me too – I’m not using it, after all. To me giving them knowledge of what kind of things I look for on Amazon, what kind of articles I like reading, even what kind of movies I love is not a big deal.

The Value of Attention

However, there was one sentence in an article on Medium that changed everything. The article had the relatively unwieldy title of “Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away” It’s well-worth a read, not the least to keep yourself up-to-date on some of the studies of this brave new information age.

For example, there’s the usual “multitasking is an illusion!” diatribe. But it includes a link to a study that showed that multitasking is not only bad for the person doing it – it actually takes away from the capabilities of people around the multitasker:

…participants who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not. The results demonstrate that multitasking on a laptop poses a significant distraction to both users and fellow students…

But we knew that already, right? But how about this: since the studies prove that attention is a limited resource, what are these social media venues doing? They are taking that resource away from you, with the help of every new “update”:

…the designers of operating systems have every incentive to be arms dealers to the social media firms. Beeps and pings and pop-ups and icons, contemporary interfaces provide an extraordinary array of attention-getting devices, emphasis on “getting.” Humans are incapable of ignoring surprising new information in our visual field…

That’s what caught my attention (sic). That “emphasis on “getting””. Suddenly I realize that while I don’t care about the corporations making use of the trail of digital detritus I leave behind, I resent the hell out of them stealing a non-renewable resource that is more valuable to me than anything: my time.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.16.29 PM

Actual Screen Shot!

Attention on FULL

There are many, many articles on how to focus, how to eliminate distractions. I’ve written some myself. There are also many apps that can help, with names like “FocusFree”. But I’ll tell you right now the singular practice that I started directly after reading that article: FULL SCREEN MODE.

No more windows. If I’m in my browser, that web page is the only thing there on the screen. If I’m writing (as shown here) there’s only my wonderful Ulysses app here in front of me. I haven’t yet tracked down all the screen alerts, so it’s not perfect yet, but when I can I shut them down. Ad-free is worth the cost, and the tweets can wait until the blog post is written.

It’s changed the way I work. What do you use to focus? Or what do you wish you could change?