Like so many people these days, I struggle with productivity. With all the late-night doom-scrolling, a monkey brain that won’t sit still, efforts to quell daily anxiety, and trying to keep my hustle going, I’m finding it hard to actually focus on one task at a time in order to make progress.
I have so many interests and plans and things I want to do—and that I’m excited and motivated to do—that they make a log-jam in my brain and I don’t actually get any of them done. I find it’s so much easier to do other things that feel like productive tasks, but are just time-wasters.
I’m super guilty of patting myself on the back for doing the dishes, cleaning up my inbox, and organizing my bookshelves. Anybody else?
I needed to find a way to be productive.
So naturally, I turned to YouTube to see what some internet influencers had to say on the topic of productivity.
Cue the irony of many, many hours of lost productivity here.
BUT, I did actually learn something. Even better, I have been able to deploy one super-helpful thing to make progress in my writing and my hustle.
That thing? It’s what Joey Schweitzer, creator of the YouTube channel Better Lives, calls, “ruthless, active concentration for one hour.” He talks about it in this video: The most important skill for improving your life.
According to Joey, “Pretty much every day, we have at least one thing that we know we need to do, and that if we were somehow able to sit down and do that thing from start to finish, our life would be better because of it.” Whether that one thing is to write 500 words, take an online course, or do your taxes, if you can apply yourself for one hour and complete that task, you will have taken a step towards improving your life or realizing an important goal.
Joey believes that if you can focus intensely on one task at a time, you will literally change your life. Because all those plans and dreams you have to live a more fulfilling life all come down to doing one thing at a time, one after the other, until you reach your goal. And the only way to accomplish those tasks is to focus on each one of those things with intentionality.
The tips Joey shares in this video to improve your focus are organized into three categories: properly crafting your physical environment, designing your digital environment, and training your mind. Many of the tips—such as putting your phone out of your line of sight while you’re focusing on a task—you would think are no-brainers. But they don’t actually work unless you do them. So when you start to operationalize these tips, you realize how powerful they are.
I set out to try the ruthlessly concentrated hour approach—and I still struggled when I was accountable to no-one except myself. But I found a secret weapon that worked. I was able to sit down and focus for an hour on one task, with no (well, not many) fidgets, no social media distractions, no gazing aimlessly out the window, no “let me just throw on a load of laundry.” And I wrote 1,000 words in one sitting.
That secret weapon was Focusmate.
Focusmate is an online community and virtual coworking site where you set up structured 50-minute sessions with other people who are trying to concentrate too. From my first sample session using this virtual accountability tool, I was a convert. Not only was I productive, I also got an immense boost from completing my session. I felt proud and energized, and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I highly recommend you check it out. (Did I mention it’s free, for now anyway? They are introducing paid plans on September 26, although can still book three sessions per week for free.)
When I mentioned it to the Restless Writers at our recent in-person meeting (yay!) (double yay!) (yes, we followed good physical distancing protocols and stayed outside!), they were a little wary of the fact that you are basically being stared at for an hour by a complete stranger. For me, that’s what made it work—it felt friendly but business-like, so there was no temptation to take a break to chat. I didn’t want to look bad by scrolling through my feeds. I was motivated to be on my best behaviour, and I was motivated by helping someone else achieve their productivity goal too. Whatever science is behind this, it works.
You might find it easier to set up a coworking session on Zoom or Skype with someone you trust. The Restless Writers might try that too. The point is to set up your hour of intense focus, and get. Shit. Done.
Have you tried Focusmate or video coworking? Or do you have some other method that keeps you on-task? Please share your trick in the comments, and tell us how it worked out for you.
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash.