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Tips to Focus More So We Can Work Less

I'm at a Starbucks writing this newsletter. I'm a bit behind on my work and so I decided a coffee shop would provide me the best environment to focus and knock some things off the to-do list.

I entered the store and set my things down at a high-top table against the wall. After ordering my cold brew, I reconsidered and decided to move outside. I sat down, opened my laptop, and then heard the barista call my name signaling my drink was ready.

I return to my table and think, "It's a little windy outside," and moved back to the high-top. For some reason a solid disco mix is the playlist of choice and I find myself bopping to the beat. I see a text from a friend come through and read it. Before long I'm nearly out of coffee and haven't written a word.


A realization strikes me. Despite the sheer number of people who frequent coffee shops to get things done, most do not provide an environment conducive to focus or best for working.


Time is precious and even if we love what we do, most of us would benefit from focusing more so we can spend less time working.


Thankfully, science has given us some concrete ways to focus less and work more.


Study to Silence

In a fascinating podcast episode from the Huberman Lab, the host makes it abundantly clear that those that completing cognitive tasks to silence is much more effective than completing that same task to music. If you must have something to listen to, white or brown noise or instrumental music is still better than your favorite T-Swift song.


Stare At a Wall

You heard me. To increase our level of focus, begin your work/study session by staring at a wall or object for 30-60 seconds. This task is easier said than done, but mental focus follows visual focus and this simple activity will prime your brain for a period of concentration.


Reward Yourself

When we receive an award for completing a task, even if we didn't enjoy that task in the first place, we train our brain to be motivated to do more of that thing. The trick is to ensure these rewards are "random and intermittent," according to Huberman. Casino's use this trick to keep people gambling.


We can all enjoy the work we do while simultaneously wanting to complete it more efficiently. The next time you have a high-focus task to complete, find a quiet place and save the Bee Gees track for the Disco that evening.


Fact

For the average person, a combination of sitting and standing at your desk is best for focusing.


Action

Write down your "focus protocol" aka the process you'll follow each time you need to enter into a period of focus.


Question

What would you do with an extra hour a day earned from focusing more and working less?

Quote

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus." - Alexander Graham Bell


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