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Try This Trick to Improve Focus - Dilbert Blog

Try This Trick to Improve Focus

Are you having trouble focusing because the world is full of distractions? I have a brain trick that might help. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I have never been diagnosed with ADDHD. But I do have a massive problem with managing distractions. I have always had problems focusing on the uninteresting, but it feels as if the complexity of life in 2015 has tripled my problem.

To get a sense of the challenge, here’s what I did between 5-7 AM this morning.

– Wrote a Sunday comic about negotiating
– Wrote a Robots Read News comic
– Blogged about my co-writers, on three different topics
– Handled logistics for a speaking trip, one of several upcoming
– Solved two or three technical problems
– Studies up on RSS feeds and click-through rates
– Researched Tumblr to see if we lose traffic by hiding organic search
– Answered a continuous stream of email, text messages, and questions
– Read the comments on my blog
– Studied my site analytics looking for useful nuggets
– Worked through three other potential blog topics in my mind.
– Wrote this blog post while I was thinking of it (at around 9 AM)

And that is the START of my workday. I still have a movie script to tweak forward, a magazine cover photo-shoot to negotiate, check the unreleased app for my start-up (CalendarTree), prepare my argument for an upcoming political battle in California (which you will enjoy watching) and on and on.

Oh, and I invented a solution to a universal problem yesterday, and wire-framed it for an app. Today I will decide whether I should share it with my start-up team or wait until we release the new features already in the pipeline.

Now imagine all of that stuff in my head at the same time, along with my immediate bodily needs, plus my complicated social life.

Focus? I don’t even remember what it was like to have it.

So here’s my little trick when my mind is in fifty places and I need it to be in one place so I can accomplish a simple task right now:

I stare at my right hand.

Then I command my hand to do the thing I need it to do, which usually involves touching a keyboard or my phone. If I need to stand up and walk to another room, I hold my hand in front of me and literally follow it to my destination, never losing focus. I also have to repeat the task, aloud, while following my hand, as in “Feed the cat. Feed the cat. Feed the cat.” Otherwise I end up in the garage fixing something that popped into my head on the way to the cat’s bowl.

When things get extra-bad, I add profanity and shouting to the mix to help me focus. That sounds more like “FEED THE F***ING CAT!…FEED THE F***ING CAT!…FEED THE F***ING CAT!”

The reason my trick works, at least for me, is that focusing on my hand gets me out of my head. And since my hand is moving, and somewhat interesting compared to inanimate objects, I can hold my attention on it for short periods. Sometimes I make fists, or wiggle my fingers to keep my focus.

There’s an interesting balance between creativity and distraction. To be creative, you want lots of random thoughts coming and going on their own schedule. Because of my career, my brain wiring has been optimized for high flow-through of ideas. Turning it off is a challenge.

I’m interested to see if my trick would work for you. If you have a chance to try it, please let me know in the comments. (Assuming you can focus long enough to do it.)

Another trick I use to regain focus is exercise. When my body is too tired to move, my brain is willing to endure a higher level of boredom. So I usually schedule exercise for around noon to reboot my focus for the afternoon. I assume my experience would translate to you as well, but I don’t know for sure.

Scott

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Other Interesting Things Today…

I predict that healthcare expenses will someday drop to 25% of their current level thanks to advances in medical devices. (I sometimes see the new stuff in beta when they pitch for funding, and WOW.) For example, check out a new digital stethoscope that promises to make a big difference.

Next, Is passion a key to success, or just another benefit of getting there? I know I get plenty excited when things work out for me. Vivian Giang helps us sort that out.

Next, would you order take-out food more often if you could watch the delivery guy’s progress on your app, like Uber? I know I would. The comfort of knowing exactly when your food is coming is a psychological game-changer. This start-up got that part right.

3D printing is getting scary. Now you can print at the molecule level and create mechanical sensors with no moving parts. I wonder if 3D printing will be the only way people acquire household goods in the future.

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My book on success: “I feel the best I have ever felt after reading a book.” –  Puget Sound Paralegal  (Amazon 5-star review Feb 20, 2015)