This morning I was wondering how other people get their head clear and empty again to focus on a certain task? I often find myself sitting at my desk asking me something like What was it what I wanted to do again? or Wait, a second ago I wanted to do something and now I am on Facebook again… and I forgot what it was, I wanted to do a minute ago, because I did not do it directly.
For things, that I want to do and get out of my head, I started using Evernote a long time ago. I used to have a notebook, like a Moleskine, to write down notes and tasks and ideas, just to get rid of them and to empty my head again. But the downside of the notebooks was, that mostly those ideas and thoughts then where lost in the nowhere, as I would never ever be able to find a certain though again. Maybe I was just to unorganised, but for me it was great to get rid of a thought, but never really to get back to something to then work on it. With a digital notebook I benefit from tags and from the possibility to search in my notes. Apart from this, I do the same: I write down the idea or thought or somethings that I wanted to do as soon as I think of it. Sometimes, when I am not able to write – in a car for example – I even record a short voice message. After this I am able to focus again and I get back to this thought later.
This is only what I can do with those bigger distractions. What I mean in the first paragraph are more those smaller distractions that keep your head busy. And this general feeling of a full head. To sit there and stare at nothing. You are not able to really concentrate and get your work done. I mean, sometimes you can only accept this an call it a day, get out with your kids and play. But sometimes, you have to get some shit done. What is it what helps you best here? I mean, everybody is different and has different solutions for stuff like this. Here is what I mostly do and maybe that is something that works for you as well …
If it is a nice day to get out, then get out of your office/house. Take a walk. Try not to think of your work or project and focus on the things that surround you. In a forest, enjoy the nature, have a look around. In a city, look at other people maybe or shop windows. Just try not to think of the stuff you though about a minute ago, when you where in you working-environment. If possible, also turn of your phone or any of the notifications that otherwise might appear.
Have a coffee/tea/drink
I own a nice coffee machine. It used to be an Isomac Zaffiro, but lately I got an ECM Technika IV, but that only as a side note. When the weather does not allow me to get out, I get downstairs and make a nice coffee for myself. I take some time to get everything done, sit down and maybe read a little bit in the newspaper to focus on something else. The coffee is a good excuse to get out of my office and downstairs. Same, of course, works with tea or any other kind of drink. Just leave the place you work for this.
Have a nap
You might smile, but that works for some people as well. A really short nap of 15 to 30 minutes. In my case this is rare, as I usually sadly don’t find the time, but when I do and did, it always helped. A short nap, some ice cold water afterwards in my face and then … of course … a coffee ;)
Just leave the work aside and play a bit. Maybe with your playstation, maybe with pencil and paper or, if you have kids, with your kids. Not much is better than a water fight in the garden, when I hear the kids playing outside. 3 against me. I can tell you, that empties your brain and you are ready and fresh afterwards.
You think that is strange? Think about it: is it YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or anything like this, where you sometimes find yourself between your work or when you where just about to get a certain task done? Then just give this distraction the full attention. Stop your work. Close email and anything that is work related and do whatever distracted you with full concentration. Take 15 minutes and watch YouTube videos. Jump from one suggestion to the next and let the flow of those suggestions lead you. Stay on Facebook, like and comment posts of your friends, but do this only. After you are done, close all those windows again and get back to work.
As an update to this post, because Frank mentioned it in a reply on Twitter, of course, sports! Sports is a great way to get a clear mind again as well. Whether it is a long run in the woods, a good session in the Gym, a fast and intense ride on your bike or any kind of team sport (where you have to find the team for on short notice) – sports is fantastic. Surely not everybody is a sports person. But then take a nap ;)
Another update, just because Brad Frost liked my tweet which triggered another topic: Music. It does not matter, if you just shut your eyes and listen to music loudly over the speakers or on your headphones or if you actually make music yourself. Brad sometimes invites to his house to have a session. I myself have rehearsal with my band every Thursday evening, which always refreshes me and during that time I never think of anything else than being in this moment and making music with my mates. If you are playing an instrument and have the chance to make some music (I prefer loud, handmade music), then do it. Music is fantastic.
What are you doing to get your energy back? To be able to focus on your work again? If all this above in the end does not help you, maybe just don't work for this certain day, as I mentioned earlier already. There are days, where you should accept not being able to work. Of course that is easily said in my position and I know that there are a lot of people who can’t just tell their boss “Hey, you know, I am not feeling like I should work today … not coming” – I get it. But wouldn’t it be great to actually have a boss like this? A boss who understands the value of someone who really is charged and fully able to get things done?
This post is very subjective and based on my daily work. So forgive me, if some things sound a bit silly or you think “That is easy for him to say”. Surely that is the benefit next to other negative aspects, that I have with the way I am working. What I have written is only meant to give you some examples what you could do, if you are in a similar position. I am more than happy what you are doing, when you are in a position like this, where it seems impossible to focus. You can shoot me an email, find me on Twitter or – best – meet me at an event to chat about this over a drink.