How to Focus on Work (When Other Things are Going On)

How to Focus on Work (When Other Things are Going On)So: it’s been almost a week since the U.S. election. Like many of you, I’m finding it hard to focus on work in the wake of the election results, and I thought it might make a great open thread today. (As I noted earlier, politically I’m left of center, but all of my friends, on both the right and the left, seem to be having these problems focusing.) How DO you focus when you’ve got heavy things on your mind? We’ve talked before in general about ways to improve your focus and how to deal with heavy personal things like post-interview anxiety, as well as miscarriage and infertility — but this feels different to me. So — if you’re feeling less than laser-focused these days, what are you doing to focus on work? Some thoughts:

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Tool of the Trade: Bluetooth Keyboard

Corporette's Tool of the Trade: The Bluetooth KeyboardI’ve mentioned my love for my Bluetooth keyboard a few times, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a whole post on it, so I thought we’d discuss. If you tend to do a lot of writing in your life (even just emails!), I highly recommend it.  There are a ton of options out there; the one that I have is the AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard, which sells for around $25. Mine was a gift from my father, received around the same time I got my first iPad, and it mostly lay around collecting dust until I figured out how to use it…

Use it for focus.  For a long time now, I’ve known that whenever I have significant editing or writing to do, the regular desktop is just the death of me — too many distractions.  (At my old law firm I even tried to unplug the Internet cable so I had less distractions and, if memory serves, got a visit from tech support because they wondered what was wrong.)  One of my old tricks has always been to write longhand, on paper.  But: then you have all this text (largely illegible, if you’re me) to get into the computer, which requires time from either you or your assistant, both to enter and review.  I had been gifted a keyboard  forget the original reason why I had gotten a Bluetooth keyboard, but I had one laying around, so it occurred to me: why not try the iPad and keyboard?  I now think of it as my little typewriter for 2015 — I never switch between screens the way I do on my desktop.

Use it for travel. The Bluetooth keyboard is super lightweight and fits in most of my bags.  It’s easily turned off and on (simple switch on the bottom) so you don’t have to worry about running the batteries down or anything when you chuck it in your bag.  I’ve even started using it with my iPhone if I’m flying or taking a train because it fits on the little tray table better.

Grab and go.  It’s so lightweight that I even grab it if I expect I might have to wait a while somewhere, like the doctor’s office. No cords, no need for wifi (unless you’re using it for email, but even then I usually just work off previously downloaded emails and then sync when I’m back in a wifi zone), and it’s so lightweight you don’t feel like you’ve sacrificed anything if you didn’t actually get around to using it.

The only cons of note that I see:  1) It sometimes takes a few tries to get it connected via Bluetooth, which is annoying.  2) If you use a ton of keyboard shortcuts involving keys like Ctrl, Del, etc, this particular keyboard is laid out differently than my desktop keyboard, so things like function keys are in different spots.  3)  Yes, it is a smaller keyboard — I haven’t felt too cramped on it at all, but then I have fairly small hands.

Ladies, do you have a tool, device, or app that you aboslutely LOVE? Share it with us in the comments. 

 

Five Ways to Improve Your Focus

improve-focus2016 Update: We still stand by the links and advice below, but you can also check out our most recent discussion on how to focus on work (when your thoughts are elsewhere).

Do you struggle with focus at work (or, hey, at home)? What tips and tricks have you found to improve your focus?  I am always looking for the best ways to improve my focus, but keep coming back to a few ideas…

  1. Eat that frog. I have yet to read the book of the same name by Brian Tracy, but I really like the idea: whatever you’re procrastinating on most — your “frog” — get it done first thing in the morning.  As in: eat the frog. (Half of the trick here is knowing what your frog is!)  Once the frog is out of the way, I find that my mental focus is a lot better — or, at least, I’m free to procrastinate on other things. [Read more…]

How to Make the Most of Your Productive Times

Pomodoro Kitchen Timer for Action Logging, originally uploaded by AndyRobertsPhotos.I’ve written before about how I love to get up early because that’s my most productive time of the day — but I don’t think we’ve ever talked about how to optimize those productive hours to get the most stuff done. I have my own tricks; I’d love to hear what you guys use as well. (I usually can be focused enough without time management techniques during this time — but they can be super helpful during other times of the day. Pictured: Pomodoro Kitchen Timer for Action Logging, originally uploaded by AndyRobertsPhotos. )

1) Know what you want to do. I always find this time is best to focus on ONE THING, not a whole to-do list. I don’t even WRITE my to-do list until later in the day, to be honest. When I get up early, I do the one thing that I need/want to do, and nothing else.

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