Switch off to switch on

11 Apr

Having recently relocated on assignment, I am finding it super easy to be with my computer all the time. I turn it on first thing in the morning, and it’s the last thing I interact with before going to sleep. There’s little to stop me, as I’m no longer going over to friends’  places, meeting up with them at the shops or movies, going out for a drink, and so on. I’ve boycotted my regular life and, behind the pre tense of settling in to my new location, am instead interacting with it electronically. My laptop is now an even greater connection with both my work and personal life – pretty convenient, huh? And yet, it poses a dire threat to my ability to remain focused at any point in time. Whilst at work, sure I’m thinking about the project, but I’m also wondering how my savings are going, whether I should buy another guitar, where I should travel to this weekend and, of course, how my friends are going. Whilst back “home”, I might appear to be relaxing to a movie, but I’m also monitoring my emails, waiting for a response, or trying to plan the next working day.

Whilst multi-tasking can seem to be a point of success, giving the illusion of achievement, it is becoming more and more recognised as a deterrent to productivity (click here or here for examples).

One of the simplest solutions is to create opportunity in the workplace for uninterrupted focus. Many, many blogs and articles detail the ways in which in to organise your day to aid focus and thereby aid creativity and productivity, but I particularly like the ones written by Mark McGuiness, such as this one.

And yet, if we are becoming more aware that multitasking is, for lack of better wording, bad, and that all we need is a schedule that allows us to focus… then why are we still succumbing to the allure of being busily unfocused?

That would be because the simple solutions are actually not so simple. It may sounds ridiculous at first, but it can be quite difficult to shut off your email for an hour, to turn off your phone, and to focus solely on a problem. This may be partially because we are afraid that we’ll find the problem at hard really difficult to solve, and at least if we were distracted the whole time we’ll have an excuse that promises to replace the feeling of inadequacy. Whatever the reason, focusing on one thing, just one thing, can be very hard.

So how we can our increase my mental capacity for focus? Meditating seems like a pretty cool idea, and almost feels obvious when you think about it, but what about daydreaming?

I won’t say that everyone should daydream at the workplace but… it’s a pretty neat way to switch off. By daydreaming, we can train our minds to ignore distractions, with almost zero effort. Once we become a little more confident in our ability to block out distractions, we will not only increase our focus for meditative and problem solving tasks, but we may even become a little more capable of switching off emails long enough to solve a problem in one go.


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