With so many distractions all around us, focussing on our work can be challenging. Focused work is incredibly valuable, because it means we can work less, freeing up time for the stuff we really love to do. But how do we work in a focussed way, when life and the internet are so full of distractions?
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1. Avoid Multitasking
The best way to focus on your work is to avoid multitasking. While multitasking sounds great— who wouldn’t want to accomplish multiple things at the same time?— the reality is that our brains simply can’t do more than one cognitive task simultaneously. While doing one cognitive task (like talking on the phone) and one physical task (like cooking dinner) can work well, trying to do multiple cognitive tasks (like writing an essay while watching Netflix) simply means you can’t do either task well.
Instead of multitasking, focus on just one task at a time. Switch your phone to silent, and shut down any social media tabs on your computer. Focussing on your task for a set time— even just twenty minutes can be helpful— and during that time, don’t do anything else. A few minutes of focussed work can be more productive than an hour of multitasking.
2. Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is one of the most effective focus-building methods. The method was invented by Francesco Cirillo, an Italian who used a tomato-shaped timer (‘Pomodoro’ is Italian for ‘tomato’).
The method is simple: turn a timer on and work for twenty-five minutes. When the timer goes, take a five-minute break. Then do another twenty-five minutes, then another five-minute break, and so on. During your ‘pomos,’ you should avoid distractions and focus exclusively on your task. Then, during the breaks, you should get up from your computer to rest your eyes and your mind.
3. Shorter is Better
When we think about working hard, we often imagine ourselves sitting in the library for hours, working constantly. The reality, however, is that a few hours of focussed work is far more effective than a full day of staring at our computer screens.
In order to get the most work done, you should actually work less! This is wonderful news, because it means you can get your work done and move on to other things you love, like spending time with friends, watching films, or practicing your hobbies.
The tricky thing about the ‘less is more’ philosophy is that the work you do must be focussed. It’s no use spending an hour on your laptop jumping between websites, then heading off for coffee with a friend thinking that you’ve accomplished something. On the other hand, if you spend that hour in focussed work, researching an essay or actively revising for your exam, then you can happily shut your laptop and enjoy that coffee, guilt-free!