Turn off the internet
Shubhashree Sangameswaran, The Hungry Palette
"This might be familiar to some of you. Here’s how my work hours tend to be if I’m not careful: I will be in the middle of writing something when I will need to look up something online. While I’m doing that, something will suddenly remind me that I need to order groceries. And so, I pick up the phone to do that, and before I know it, I’m on Instagram and have spent ten minutes there, then gone to Twitter, and back to Instagram for a little longer – while I’ve forgotten the groceries I wanted to order, let alone the fact that I was in the middle of something else.
Can you relate? Ever since I realized this behavior of mine, a couple of things have really helped me focus when I work. First is to put my phone on Do Not Disturb and turn off my Wi-Fi for short stretches of time. Second is the Pomodoro technique, or a simple 25-minute timer.
Turning off the internet: Oftentimes, this business of needing to look up something is my biggest undoing because the internet is one giant rabbit hole, and you can get sucked into going deeper and deeper into something, even when all you needed was say, just the name of a book that you were thinking of! When I have no access to the internet, I’m not giving in to every impulse or thought my brain comes up with, and I’m restricted to do nothing else but focus on the job at hand. I also recall listening to someone speak about working with the internet turned off and keeping a notepad titled ‘When Next Online’ to jot down things that they needed to look up while they were working online. That could also be a very effective tool for long stretches of focused work.
Pomodoro technique: There are both mobile and desktop apps for this, but in its most basic version, the idea here is to set a 25-minute timer and work on a single task without being distracted for that period. So, that means you don’t respond to notifications or pick up your phone to reply to that message you’ve been meaning to. You simply focus the task you’ve chosen to work on until the timer goes off. You then get a five-minute break, at the end of which you start over again. (PS: This break is a good time to stare outside a window for a minute or so if you’ve been staring at a screen, drink some water, and move your body a bit!) At the end of 4-5 such cycles, you reward yourself with a longer break of 20-30 minutes.
In fact, this is how I typed out this piece – I got it done in under 25 minutes!"
Shubhashree Sangameswaran is an artist and entrepreneur trying to get more people to make art just for the joy of it.