I used to be terrible at concentrating. My attention span wasn’t that long, and I would easily get distracted. So, I created a seven-step checklist to help me better focus:
1. Find a challenging task that’s not too difficult nor too easy.
Choose a task that’s 10–20% harder than usual. 10–20% here is not a quantitatively measured range – it’s just a feeling. If the task is too easy, you’ll easily be bored; If it’s too hard, you’ll be overwhelmed.
2. Block a chunk of time
Reaching flow state requires more hours than you think. Block a chunk of time, at least a couple of hours. The more time you have, the better.
3. Tackle one task at a time. Don’t jump around.
Multitasking never works with flow state. Choose one specific task and focus on that. Finished? Move on to the next one on your to-do list. Don’t jump around while you’re in flow state. It’ll break your flow.
4. Keep your phone physically away from your workspace.
Smartphones are the worst. They are essentials in 2021 (obviously), but absolutely not while you’re focused. Turn on Do Not Disturb mode, then place it somewhere physically far away from your desk. Resist picking it up during flow hours.
5. Don’t track time. The point of reaching flow state is to lose track of time.
Many people track time while doing deep work. Don’t. You’re reaching flow to lose track of time, not obsessing over how many hours you “focused” for the day.
6. Keep your workstation distraction-free
Always turn on Do Not Disturb mode. Close all other non-essential applications and tabs in your browser. Don’t spread your focus across multiple apps and tabs. Less software, fewer distractions. Make sure you’re working alone. If you have coworkers or if you’re working from home have family members next to you it’ll be hard to reach flow. They’ll move, talk, eat, drink, laugh, etc. Those are all distractions that interfere with your flow state. If possible, try to be alone while you’re at work.
7. Noise canceling headphones and calm music help.
If you have noise-canceling headphones (e.g., Apple Airpods Pro), they’ll help you get into focus mode much quicker. Also, listening to quiet, calm music helps. I like listening to jazz piano while I’m in flow.
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