- “Simplify, simplify.” – Henri David Thoreau
Early in the digital age, a PC was just a box adorned with a flickering prompt, its deep numeric silence made focus and reflexion possible.
These days are gone. Marketers figured a path from the computer screen straight to our brain, and we’re under permanent attack: junk messages, Facebook invitations, and sign-up screens that trigger confirmation emails sending us back to a landing page…All that in a whirlwind of passwords and frustrated expectations. By the time we finally start working, we often realize with horror that it’s already 1 am and we got nothing done.
Frustrated by that process, I started changing my computing habits, and so far the strategies I’ve borrowed from Leo Babauta and various other minimalist authors have helped me stay focused, relaxed and in control.
I wrapped it up below in case you want to apply them:
Protect your focus
In the digital media, everyone is battling for your attention , every single application and website wants you to clicks on their ads or to “go premium”. If you don’t take control of your focus, your computer will get you somewhere by default and you’ll gradually enter that vegetable state typical of digital oblivion. But you know what I’m talking about, anyway.
To make sure your computer remains a tool that helps you respond to important email and get your shit done, you’d better take control.
Here’s the strategy that works for me:
- Decide before starting your session
Make up your mind about what you want to do prior to opening your laptop. Decide you’re going to stick to that plan until it’s completed. That’s a great way to protect your mind against online procrastination (viral videos, instant messages and crap).
- One thing at a time
Avoid multi-tasking at any cost. Multi-tasking is evil. Most guys can’t multi task, some women manage to, but they have to divide their attention into so many task. Keep multi-tasking for extreme survival situations; if you suddenly remember that you have to call your cable company, write it in a todo somewhere and get right back to this email you were writing.
Resist the temptation to go to their website and post an insulting comment until your task is done.
- Time it short
If you give yourself slightly less time than you think you need to perform a task, you’ll unconsciously manage to get it done within the allocated time. And when it comes to working on a computer, it’s particularly helpful because your brain will try everything it can to avoid distractions and focus on the job.
- Track it
You’ll never find a clock in a bar and the same goes on a website. If you were conscious of the time flying will you’re mindlessly watching a Vine video for the 100’s time you would stop it and get back to work. There’s a free tool that helps you monitor your usage, it’s called Rescue Time it give you a way to be aware
- Control it
You can even push discipline a tad further and install site blockers: these browser extensions help you limit the time you spend on some websites (whatever they are…). I use StayFocusd, I think it’s an awesome tool.
Block digital interferences
- Barricade your computer
By default, all our communication apps are opened: email clients, skype, msn, Facebook messenger, in short: anybody can interrupt you anytime, resulting in the shallowest half-assed conversation because you’re onto something but you don’t want to be rude and hang up. Look, let’s be honest: would you let the door of your apartment open 27/7 for your neighbor to step in and start talking to you? I keep my apps closed at all times, unless I made an appointment with a friend or I decide to be a drag and randomly call them for no particular reason :)
- Get offline as often as possible
In general, if you need to write an article, design a chart or make a presentation, shut your wifi connection down and get things done 30% faster.
- Email twice a day
I’ve recently decided to check and process email 2 x a day, not only it takes me less time to respond but I also stopped looking like a crackhead frantically refreshing my email client every 20 seconds.
- Uninstall mobile apps
I’ve also uninstalled my Facebook mobile app, I highly recommend that, if you want to enjoy the view as you walk, or social conversations (for the subway, I use Kindle for mobile phones when I’m bored)
Try minimalistic apps
There’s a wealth of apps that help you get things done without being ugly or invasive, let me name a few that I’ve tried and loved:
- Ommwriter: beautiful writepad that hides everything on your screen to help you focus on your writing only: http://www.ommwriter.com.
- Feedly: possibly the best RSS reader: a super simple interface and a great way to switch from Facebook vomit content to good reads: http://feedly.com/
- Sparrow: another naked app, it’s hard not to love how efficient and clean this email client is: for Mac, for the iPhone
We’ve reached a breaking point in the way we handle technology. We don’t really control it any longer, in fact it’s pretty much the opposite, now. Yet it’s easy to block the intrusion of so much data and go slowly, enjoy the chaotic nature of our organic, indecisive human thought processes.
After all, our happiness depends on it. Should we be the boss in our own head, or let the ad-plastered digital histeria take over?
I made up my mind.