Question

How do you re-focus after distractions?

Been reading on Gloria Mark's research about distractions and the penalties of context switching. (It takes on average 23min to refocus)

Supposedly the older we are, the harder it is to switch between contexts(re-focus), and thus the penalty increases.

Do you use any tools to help you refocus faster?

Mentioned
#Spotify #Zoom #RescueTime #Slack
Share
maguay's avatar
9 months ago

Honestly it's a struggle—and the thing I've found that helps the most is to put on headphones, turn on a soundtrack or ambient-style music, and open a writing app full-screen. Start writing down what I need to work on or some rough ideas. That's generally the best way to get back into flow for me.

The hardest thing actually may be when I have a ton of random tasks, where each take some focus but none take that dedicated, hour-or-more blocks of time, as the switching costs between those feel even higher. Or, the opposite, when I have a time slot but can't quite get focused enough—that's when sometimes it's worth switching up environments, moving into another room or turning on environmental sounds to fake a coffee shop (or go to one, when possible). Oddly that can sometimes feel less distracting than the normal office or home office environment, for whatever reason.

5 points
robertohanas's avatar
@robertohanas (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

So what you found to work is remove all distractions and force yourself to do it. Either till you go over the blockage or you decide to change environments?

( Smaller tasks are indeed one problematic area for me as well- get distracted way easier. I guess it's because there is more room to slip away into a distraction when you constantly need to switch your context. )

Was thinking if there is a way to reduce this context switching penalty and prevent sidetracking. - Spotify playlist works but not always :D especially if there's nobody elese in the room (That reminder in the background that I should focus on work ( does that even makes sense?)

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @robertohanas )
9 months ago

Haha yeah you’ve nailed it. The only real thing I’ve found is to make an environment that helps me power through.

Another tool that has worked for me in a similar vein is using RescueTime or other tools to track how much time I spend on apps, and even block news/social networks/other distracting things to keep me focused. Of course typically as soon as I do that, I’ll need to use an app that requires social login and end up messing myself up.

That totally makes sense on the effect of having others in the room or not. I think that’s part of what makes working in coffee shops or coworking spaces helpful for remote/freelance employees as it feels weird to “goof off” when others might be watching. I’ve seen people recommend doing pair work—essentially opening Zoom with someone else, even if you’re each working on different things—just as a bit of accountability to keep you focused. Could be worth a try!

2 points
robertohanas's avatar
@robertohanas (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

The problem with RescueTime and other tools for me was the lack of pro-activity. They allow you to monitor and improve your time-management, and the way you work by providing some kind of "mirror report" that you can reflect and adjust.

I have not found tools that were proactive in helping you adjust. Suggesting good behaviors based on the tracking or even recommending some changes.
It's usually you/ I that have to analyze and make adjustments. ( which sucks especially if you have no idea how to improve )
So what we end up doing is spending hours on forums, and articles reading about what we could do better -> then we analyze if we even have that problem -> and then monitor to see if we are improving or not. ( by this time, I usually give up)
And the improvement just gets pushed on a pile of: Good to know improvements that I could do to improve my productivity and workflow and might do at one point :D

Refocusing is one of the issues I have regarding productivity.
That's why I'm searching for tools.
ps. I'm currently trying to build a process/app for myself as I haven't found one, yet.

1 point
mturquette's avatar
9 months ago

You have to plan ahead and assume that the distractions will happen. I like the reply that mentioned having ready-to-play playlists set for different moods.

The way that I try to mitigate the effects of distractions is by having a daily plan that is very achievable and documented. Years ago I discovered the today.txt method, and I still use it in Roam (I have a block embed that makes templating today.txt very easy in each daily note). Check it out:

https://johnhenrymuller.com/today

If I'm really organized, I'll fill out the next day's today.txt the night before, but this is pretty rare. Usually I sit down each day and force myself to immediately fill out the blanks as my first order of business. No email, Slack or anything else until I've set today's goals. Then I prioritize those goals above all other distractions. If something external barges in (like my toddler) then I accept the distraction, have a positive attitude, and when I'm finally able to return to work the first thing I do is Cmd-Tab over to Roam and look at my today.txt to recenter my focus and see what's next or where I left off.

The really important part is the last line, which states that if you can accomplish the items on your list, then today will be a good day. Start by aiming low with very achievable results, and accept that you have had a good day when you close your laptop lid. Feel satisfied.

On days that I don't get it done, I copy the previous days today.txt over to the new daily note in Roam.

4 points
jeskor's avatar
9 months ago

I didn't realize I had long been struggling with this until someone pointed out similar research/thoughts. Not sure I've solved it. I am guilty of thinking I am thriving in the chaos, too.

What few things I've tried that have stuck around:
- being proactive with calendar time ... blocking out "heads down time"
- having a couple warm-up tasks ready to go (vs. trying to jump straight back into the big moments)
- playlists ready (mood music) vs. spending another 15 - 20 minutes being "distracted" in Spotify
- admitting defeat and doing something positive and non-screen based, like exercise or cooking or laundry ... often the mental reset means I come back fresh and motivated
- 50/50 if this works for everyone but as a designer ... accepting that I need to do "something" to make progress and worry less if it's any good ... if anything, at least I have a low bar to work above and that helps get back into "the zone" ("Don't quit until it ain't shit.")

2 points
robertohanas's avatar
@robertohanas (replying to @jeskor )
9 months ago

Thanks for sharing what you are doing to deal with chaos.

Interesting that you mentioned you didn't realize you've struggled with this before somebody pointed it out.
How did you get convinced that it's something you should do something about?

1 point
jeskor's avatar
@jeskor (replying to @robertohanas )
9 months ago

I used to work late at night all the time, thinking that this was when "I do my best work"... someone pointed out it was more because this was when I wasn't distracted by everything else. Also, getting older ... kids, hobbies, work, life ... you start looking to optimize your schedule, asking "is this the best use of my time", etc. No one single event, easier to see in hindsight .

1 point
Skeetsel541-'s avatar
9 months ago

My problem is time breaking up my work. Years ago I could move from one part of what I do and back again with ease. With age it takes time to put on new hats and projects take longer. Very frustrated!

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @Skeetsel541- )
9 months ago

So do you find yourself mostly trying to work on one task for longer periods of time to keep from having to break it up and switch modes? Have you found any tools to help here?

1 point
Skeetsel541-'s avatar
@Skeetsel541- (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

I have many positions. I own a movie theatre, am a disc jockey and manage musicians. Very hard to switch gears and then switch back

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @Skeetsel541- )
9 months ago

Aha thus your love of “that’s my jam” :D

2 points
Skeetsel541-'s avatar
@Skeetsel541- (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

very true

1 point
robertohanas's avatar
@robertohanas (replying to @Skeetsel541- )
9 months ago

I've seen a post on Quora about this. Seems as we get older, our brain's plasticity gets impacted negatively. This results in increase effort needed to switch between hats/works.

Does that resonate?

Supposedly you can increase plasticity. Recommended video:

1 point
Skeetsel541-'s avatar
@Skeetsel541- (replying to @robertohanas )
9 months ago

It resonates loudly! I used to be able to switch roles pretty easily. Now it takes way more start up time than before. I am trying to create more situations where I have the specific role for a longer period of time before I move on. I will definitely watch this. Very interesting!

2 points
StephanieP2021's avatar
9 months ago

I've noticed a big difference since I switched to SuperHuman for email, the simple fact that it blocks out the rest of my inbox as I respond to the one at hand has made all the difference. I don't know if I can ever go back to gmail now. But Slack is a whole other issue, I turned off the notifications but still find myself checking it constantly to make sure no one is waiting on me for anything. The 50+ open tabs at the end of each day say it all! The evening (post kids' bedtime) has become my most productive time for uninterrupted projects.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @StephanieP2021 )
9 months ago

One tiny change I've found mostly helpful with Slack is to create sections to organize channels. It's easier to find the channels I need at a glance and only check those, and you can mute an entire section to clear out all the noisy channels and keep them from always pulling in your attention. The only danger is that you might miss out on some newer channels as they'll go to the bottom of your list by default, but that just takes a bit of maintenance to always make sure to add new channels to the section you want.

Not perfect, but it's a start!

2 points
How do you manage your chat inbox?

Hey guys, first post here. As part of my work, I have to deal with and respond to a lot of incoming messages from different chats: Linkedin/WhatsApp/Signal/IG. I try to use Unreads/Archive features...

Good Segment alternatives (It's too expensive for B2C)

We're currently looking at a few alternatives - https://getanalytics.io/ roll your own - https://rudderstack.com/ - https://www.freshpaint.io/ any experience with the above tools, other tools?

The community for power users.