I’ve been on a mission lately: to get more focus and discipline in my life. I’ve never really been disciplined. I eat what I want, quit things when they get too difficult, and bounce from one task to the other, often leaving things unfinished – like the door frame I’ve been “thinking” about trimming out for 2 years now.
But I know focus and discipline are the most important keys to creating success. Here’s what’s been helping me lately:
It’s been a slow process, but every time I’ve gotten a newsletter/update/coupon offer in the last two weeks, I’ve asked myself, “When was the last time I actually read this?”
Whatever the answer is, you should still unsubscribe. It’s cathartic.
I created a bad habit of signing up for a bunch of newsletters or coupon reminders every time I bought something online. This is the electronic equivalent of getting a bunch of coupon packets and flyers in the mail at home.
It fills you with anxiety, creates the potential to lose something important, eats up your time (and mailbox space), and does absolutely nothing positive for you.
Now that I’ve cleaned out the crap that comes in every day, I know the emails I do get will be the ones I actually need to pay attention to.
- Turn off the notification sounds
I have a smart phone, which is great, but it’s a time suck. My phone has become my master. I’m Pavlov’s dog.
Every time it dings, honks, or beeps, I jump to check it, no matter what I’m doing. (I told you discipline wasn’t really my thing). I have to check it. Hell, I check it even when it doesn’t make noises, just in case I missed something.
Classic FOMO, right?
But I don’t want to be this guy. Not in public and especially not at home.
So I turned off all the notification sounds. Easy fix. The less it makes noise, the less likely I am to look at it all the time.
And let’s be honest: no one’s world is ending because you’re not answering immediately. We’ve done this to ourselves. We’ve created the expectation that everyone needs to answer us the second we text them. This isn’t realistic. Let’s stop pressuring each other into instant gratification.
- The Pomodoro Technique
If you’re like me, sitting for long bouts of time is hard. I often invent things to do for the sake of moving (or avoiding real work). But once I realized I was just wasting time instead of getting work done, I began to look for solutions.
Pomodoro was the answer. Ninety-minute bursts of productivity, with small breaks built in.
It keeps me more focused, mostly because I know it’s not a going to be a slog getting through the work. I can focus better with small, manageable chunks of time and I get the reward of getting up every hour and a half, giving me something to look forward to.
Discipline is nothing more than delayed gratification. It’s not always easy to do, but once you start to get mindful about how you waste time, you’ll start to get mindful about how to get productive. Just be careful that you don’t confuse busyness with productivity.
Which actually leads me to a bonus tip I got from Tim Ferriss. Every time you get up to do something – get coffee, check the mail, throw in a load of laundry – ask yourself this one thing: “Am I being productive or am I being busy?”
Simple, but it will change your entire day.
So give one of these a try and come back to share the results in the comments. Or, if you have your own productivity hacks, share those too!