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(clock ticking) It all sounds so simple.
Sit down and do the work.
But it isn't, is it? Ever since you merged yourworkspace with your living space, ever since the days beginto bleed into one another in an undifferentiatedcycle of light and dark, and ever since yoursocial interactions moved to small, fake islands, youhaven't been able to focus.
Shia's impassioned callsto action fail to stir you.
And you're starting towonder if you'll ever be able to concentrate or get anythingworthwhile done ever again.
This is really dramatic, isn't it? Okay, so I've heard this a lot lately.
It is way harder to stay focused when you're working athome versus your office or a coffee shop or whereverit is that you normally work.
The lack of separation between your work and your personal life, not to mention lots ofadditional distractions floating around, means thatyour home is kind of like the final boss of difficult workspaces.
Well, no, that would probably be a Chuck E.
But still, today, I want to talk about how you can actually stayfocused on your work, not to mention get startedon it in the first place, when you're working from home.
And first, we need totalk about intentionality.
Intentionally, the mostuseful thing you can do when you sit down to work is to set a strong intention first.
If you're anything like me, I'm sure you can think backto a time when you sat down, and instead of working intentionally, you found yourself bouncingbetween mostly useless busywork tasks, thingslike answering your email or checking your credit score.
How is this even possible? These tasks are easy, and they give you an immediatefeeling of accomplishment.
So they're tempting to work on.
But they also cause you toprocrastinate on the work that you really should be doing, work that's truly meaningful to you.
So really, they often endup being a net negative.
And setting a strongintention before you work helps you to avoid them, at least until the real work is done.
Now, one useful way of setting intentions is to follow the Rule of Three.
This is a concept from Chris Bailey's book “The Productivity Project, “and it's really simple.
When you're writing out your daily plan, choose no more than three meaningful tasks that you intend to get done.
And if you write your dailylist on a white board like I do, then you might wanna tweak how you use it by writing these threeintentions at the top and listing any smaller tasks below them in a de-prioritized way.
Don't worry about those untilyou get the main intentions taken care of.
Then when it's time tosit down for a session of focused work, lookat your list and choose just one item to work on.
Really mentally commit todevoting this working session only to that item.
And just like that, younow have a strong intention that will help to guideyou and keep you on task.
Or at least you would, if you happen to besitting in an empty room in like a monastery withno phone or internet access or anything else to distract you.
But since you're at home, I would wager that your environment is absolutely teeming with distractions.
And if your intentionsare gonna be translated into action, then theseneed to be dealt with.
There's just no getting around it.
And that has to deal withhow your brain is wired.
The human brain has evolved over millions of years to bea highly sensitive instrument, ever attentive to the small changes in a constantly shifting andoften dangerous environment.
And while this hasenabled the very survival of our species, it has alsomade a lot of people very angry and has been widelyregarded as a bad move.
And that is, not least of which, because it renders us easily distracted when we're trying to do complex work, even if we set a strongintention beforehand.
Because meaningful work is hard, because it requires us to really tax our higher brain functions, we are naturally resistant to doing it.
And we'll take any excuseto fixate on something else.
Additionally, our brainsalso have what's called a built-in novelty bias.
Even when we're notresisting difficult tasks, we are drawn to new things, kind of like flies to a light bulb.
An analogy can be found inan observation that I made back when I was in middle school.
See, when I was a student, I used to carry a pack ofchewing gum in my pocket for, you know, myself.
And any time that I wouldget a piece of gum out, again, for myself, anyone of my classmates who saw the pack of gumcome out of my pocket would stop what they were doing and instantly become a mooch.
– I will literally dieif you do not give me a piece of that right now.
– And saying the word noto any of these classmates was like hitting them inthe face with a brick.
The wounded looks in their eyes told me that in denying themthat stick of Big Red, I had ripped apart their dreams, torn their hopes to ribbons, and extinguished everyspark of happiness and joy that had kept them pushing forward in this cruel, cruel world thus far.
And yet, seconds beforethis exchange would happen, not one of those classmateswas thinking about chewing gum.
Hadn't even crossed their mind.
And this is how our brains work.
We have this novelty bias, but of course a novel object has to be brought to ourattention for it to be engaged.
Out of sight, out of mind.
It's why marketers andadvertisers talk so much about the AIDA framework, Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
It's the order of operations that governs most of the actions we take, including the ones that lead us to indulging in distractions.
Also, if you don't chew Big Red, then.
Fortunately, you can use this knowledge of human psychology to your advantage.
If you know that being merely exposed to a potential distractionis gonna put you aboard the AIDA Express on a one-way journey to wasting the rest of the day and looking at more cat picturesthan you probably need to, then all you need to do is ensure that you are not exposedin the first place.
So, Anna was gonna help me film a skit for this part of the video.
Then, she fell victimto the worst distraction in the entire house.
In other words, removeany potential distractions before you start working.
Dealing with them ahead of time is infinitely easierthan trying to fight them in the moment.
I swear, I'm just getting footage to make this point more visual.
Six ours later.
Now, you're not alwaysgoing to be able to do this.
Chris Bailey's book, “Hyper Focus” breaks distractions down intofour different categories based on whether or notyou have control over them and whether you find them fun or annoying.
And those that you have no control over, like loud colleagues, construction noises, or calls from your mom, are hard to plan for ahead of time.
The best you can do is to deal with them while keeping youroriginal intention in mind, and then get back on trackas quickly as possible.
But the distractions that you can control can also be dealt with in advance.
And let's start with your phone, because it's probably the worst offender.
Now, in the past, I havebeen a bit soft on phones.
“Put it on Do Not Disturb, ” I said.
Use features like Focus mode on Android or Screen Time on iOSto simply limit the time when you can access distracting apps.
But you know what, I think it's time to geta little bit tougher.
If you don't need yourphone for your work, and let's face it, you probably don't, then keep it out of arm's reach.
Personally, I've been setting my phone to Do Not Disturb mode for most of the day and also putting it on the printer on the other side of my office so, again, it's out of arm's reach.
I also have it set so my favorite contacts can get through Do Not Disturb so my phone does actually work as a phone.
But everyone else gets silenced, along with all app notifications.
Your computer is also ahuge potential distraction, and that is mostly due to the fact that it's connected to the internet.
And if that's a particular;ybig problem for you, then you might want toactually disconnect it when you don't need it, either by disabling your WiFi or by actually unpluggingthe ethernet cable.
Barring that, there is one rule that I highly recommend you follow.
Don't keep email or anyinstant messsaging apps like Slack or Telegram orwhatever, Microsoft Teams, whatever it is, don't keep anyof these open while you work.
These are constant sources of novelty, so they are distracting by nature.
But they also come with theadditional social pressure you feel to respond to amessage when it comes in.
Personally, I'm part ofseveral different Slack groups.
And over the past few months, I've gotten into the badhabit of keeping them open while I was working.
And I realized that Iwould sometimes spend entire workdays just chatting with people.
So now, I only check Slack and email at specific times of the day, and I respond to everything in batches.
To remove othercomputer-based distractions, you can look into gettinga distraction blocker, which would block any websites or apps that you put onto a block list.
I use one called Freedom, whichcan be set up to block sites during prescheduled windows of time throughout the day or enabledfor timed work sessions.
Now, I'm not gonna spenda ton of extra time talking about apps here.
But if you're looking for other ones that can help you focus, I've recently publisheda page on my website called The Focus Toolkitwhich recommends several more, and I'll have that linked inthe description down below.
Lastly, since you're at home, ask yourself if there areany other potential sources of distraction that areparticular pain points for you that you should address.
Like maybe your gameconsoles are a temptation.
Well, if that's the case, put the power cord in another room until you're done with your work.
Make it inconvenient to access them so you don't do it impulsively.
I'd also recommend keeping adistraction journal nearby.
And whenever something pullsyou away from your work, make a note of what it wasand why it pulls you away so you can figure out howto eliminate it in advance the next time you sit down.
Now, once you've taken careof all those distractions, the last thing you needto figure out how to do is to get rid of the resistanceyou feel towards starting.
And this is serious.
Mental resistance towardsdifficult tasks is a big issue.
For just one example, there was once a study done on people who felt high levels of anxiety towards doing math.
And the study found thatthe mere anticipation of having to do math causedincreased brain activity in some specific regions of the brain, namely those that dealwith threat detection and even physical pain.
And what this illustratesis that certain parts of our brain view difficult, mentally taxing tasks in the same way they would view touching a hot stove burner.
Fortunately, this aversion you feel towards difficult tasksreally only affects you at the beginning.
Once you get into it, you build up momentum that overcomes that resistance.
So all you need to do isto reduce your resistance enough to get started.
And you do this by makingthe task feel less daunting.
Now, the first method for doing that is to break down your tasks.
In other words, narrow thescope of your intention.
Earlier on in the video, we talked about setting an intention by choosing one of thethree meaningful tasks on your daily plan.
But if those tasks feel too big, then simply break onedown into smaller chunks.
That way, you can pick one of those chunks and set it as your intention instead.
For example, when I sit down to write, I never set my intentionas write a video script.
Instead, I create multiplesubheadings based on an outline, and then I sit down with the intention of writing a draft ofjust a single section.
Now, if I put forward into more sections during that writing session, great.
But that is not my intentionwhen I'm starting out.
Secondly, commit to working only for a specific period of time, and make it low enough thatyou no longer feel resistance.
So if 30 minutes feels liketoo much, then go for 15.
Now, whatever time you decide to go with, set it on a timer, or at least put it on a timer app.
Using one of these toolscreates a little bit of external pressure sothere's one less thing you have to rely on your willpower, your internal self-control to handle.
So now you have all thetools and and the concepts that you should need to sit down and do some focused work.
But if you'd like to see an example, here's exactly how I do it.
First, I will look at my white board, which now lists my top three intentions separately from other smaller tasks.
And if each of these is toobig for a single work session, I will choose part of one and set my intention based on that.
Next, I choose how long I'm going to work.
And lately, that has beenabout 35 minutes per session, at least for starters, which means the very next thing I do is set a 35-minute block timer on Freedom and choose a block listthat supports the task.
For writing and video, or for doing research, I use my Morning block list, which blocks Slack, email, all social media, YouTube, and any busyworksites like Google Analytics, which are a pretty bigdistraction for me, personally.
Then I'll chose something to listen to, which lately has beeneither the focus sessions on brain.
fm or my SundayStudy playlist on Spotify, which I'll link to down below.
And finally, I set an actual timer in a little Mac toolbarapp called Be Focused.
This takes all of 30 seconds.
And in that time, I've doneeverything we've mentioned here.
I've set an intention, I've removed alldistractions ahead of time, and I've eliminated mybrain's aversion to starting by choosing a manageabletime for my timer.
And I've found that doing these few things enables me to stay focused for much longer and helps me be a lot more productive.
And it makes sense, right? Once you've taken the big problem that seems so difficult to solve, the problem of not being able to focus, and broken it down, you're left with just a few smaller, easier to solve problems.
And these quick actionsneatly take care of each one.
And it's worth remembering thatall problems are like this.
Once you've broken themdown into smaller parts, you start to see little anglesof attack that you can take for applying useful solutions.
And doing this is a skill that you can get betterat through practice.
And one great resourcefor getting that practice is Brilliant.
The math, science, andcomputer science courses on Brilliant are all built to engage your problem solving abilities, as they quickly throw you into challenges that force you to really interact with theconcepts you're learning.
And not only does learning with Brilliant help you to become abetter problem solver, since you're spendingthe majority of your time actively solving problems, but it can also help you to get ahead and understand the world more thoroughly.
Brilliant's library featuresmore than 60 in-depth courses with a full math suitethat covers everything from basic number theoryto high-level probability, along with science andcomputer science courses.
And that includes a newcourse on neural networks, which are a fundamental partof artificial intelligence.
So to start learning and building your problem solving skills today, head on over to brilliant.
org/thomasfrank and sign up.
Link will be in thedescription down below.
And if you're one of thefirst 200 people to do that, you're even going to get 20% off your annual premium subscription.
So that is it.
Thank you so much for watching.
And if you like this video, definitely hit that Like button to show YouTube's algorithm what's up.
And you may also want to gofollow me over on Instagram, because today, I've actuallyput up a little bonus video with an additional tip fordealing with a particular type of distraction that I knowa few of you deal with on a regular basis.
So check that out.
Link will be in thedescription down below.
Otherwise, you can subscribe right there or check out one morevideo on this channel right over here, probably.
I think this is wherethe button's going to be.
Yeah, smash your face into it and watch some more videos, dude.
Otherwise, go do whatever you want, because as always, I'm not your dad.