How To Get Your Focus Back

HOW TO
This article originally appeared in The Load In, the weekly digital magazine for musicians. Subscribe for free below.

Do you ever have a hard time focusing for an extended period of time?

Do you ever feel restless, like you want to be working on something, but you don’t know what?

Do you ever browse Facebook on your phone, hit the home button, think to yourself, “what should I do now?” and then open Facebook again?

Do ever go to that one person’s Facebook page, specifically to get annoyed? You know they will have posted some crazy nonsense, but you dive in head first.

You’re Normal, But This Is Crazy

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, congratulations!  You’re living in 2017.  It’s a crazy time we’re living in, and the noise is louder than ever. There’s a constant stream of pictures, videos, posts, articles, polls, Netflix shows, and new music battling for your attention. How are you supposed to get any work done?

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Well friends, over the past several months I’ve been conducting some experiments. I’ve tried many different things, and I’m happy to tell you the results:

I’m more focused than ever, I feel less stressed, more driven, and feel better as a whole. In short: it’s like I got my life back.

There are 3 big things that I’ve done over the past few months that have radically changed how I work and live, and over the next few issues I’ll share each of them with you. You may think I’m crazy, but you should try it yourself. You just might be surprised at the results.

Each week I’ll discuss a different thing that will help bring your focus back, then tell you how you can do it yourself. Since we have two weeks between each issue, that’s the perfect amount of time to run your own experiment and see how it affects your focus, your work, and your life.

But hey, try actually doing this stuff. If you hate it, cool, it’s only two weeks. If you love it… well then it might just change your life (it’s certainly changed mine).


Phase 1: Turn Off Notifications

Are familiar with the “phantom vibrate”? It’s a phenomenon where you feel a vibration from your phone, but it didn’t vibrate. Maybe the phone wasn’t even in your pocket. It’s crazy, unsettling, and happens to a lot of people. About a year ago I was at the point where the noise from the vibration would give me a minor panic attack, so I decided to turn off my phone vibrations.

With no vibration, I decided there were two modes for my phone: “notification sound on” and “completely silent.” I would turn the sound off for situations when it would be unacceptable to make noise, and leave it on the rest of the time.

But eventually I started to notice something: I was much more productive during the silent times than the “sound on” times. As it turns out, not being interrupted every few minutes by a text, a Facebook like, an Instagram comment, or a phone call (with either sound or vibration) made it much easier to get work done, and do better work.

Your phone is basically this little girl from that infamous BBC interview. 

Your phone is basically this little girl from that infamous BBC interview.

This realization lead me to take the full jump. Instead of having occasional “do not disturb” times, I decided to live my life on do not disturb. Honestly, it’s a game changer. This is the single biggest factor that has lead to more focus and less stress. I’m able to work uninterrupted for as long as I need to, until I decide I want to look at my phone.

How To Do It

If you’d like to try this yourself, it’s easy to do.

Go to your phone’s notifications settings. You can tweak all kinds of settings such as sounds, vibrations, adding a numbered badge to the icon, and showing it on the lock screen, as well as what type of notification it gives you (banner or alert).

With only two exceptions, I have absolutely everything turned off. Facebook will never bother me, nor will Instagram. Not even my email gets through. These are all things that you probably check on a regular basis, so you’ll end up seeing it. Do you really need to see every like, comment, and message the moment it comes in? (After living like this for a year I can tell you the answer is a solid NO.)

Two Exceptions
The two exceptions are phone calls and text messages. If you have my phone number, you know how much I hate talking on the phone, but it’s still a fact of life. Phone calls come through, but they still won’t make a noise or vibrate.

Text messages are different. While I want to read texts and reply to them within a decent timeframe, I don’t want to be constantly interrupted. That’s why I’ve turned off the sound, vibration, and banner. If my phone is in my pocket, I won’t know that I got a text until I pull it out of my pocket and see it on the home screen. If I’m using a different app on my phone and I get a text, I won’t see it until I click the home button and see the badge number on the icon.

I know, I sound crazy. But I’m telling you, you will get so much focus back by doing this. It will change your relationship with your phone. Instead of your phone constantly interrupting whatever you’re doing, it’s putting you in control of your phone, putting you in control of when you see your messages, likes, and comments (plus, you already check your phone regularly. You’re really not going to miss anything important, I promise).

It’s Your Turn

This week, experiment with turning notifications on your phone off. If you hate it, you can always turn them back on.

If you have a laptop with text and Facebook notifications and everything else that your phone does, you’ll want to turn those off as well. Your phone is probably the biggest source of notifications, but your computer can still interrupt you in the middle of your work.

Throughout the next two weeks as you experiment, I’d love to hear how it’s going. Email me and let me know how this has affected your focus, I can’t wait to hear from you.