For many years I tried listening to some excellent songs while studying or doing some other work.
It felt pretty great just sitting at my desk or lying in bed with music in the background and a book in front of my nose.
It didn’t turn out that great results-wise though. I learned and got things done. But it took a long time.
Finally I realized that I had to let the music go if I wanted to improve my focus and effectiveness.
- Unplug your internet cable. If you don’t, it may be tempting to just take a short breather online. Perhaps check your email or your RSS-feeds. Or chat for a few minutes with some friends via IM. This breather usually expands and before you know it your 5 minute break has become a 35 minute procrastination-session.
- Unplug the phone. If have the possibility, consider unplugging or shutting off the phone for a while. Talking, smsing and emailing can become big distractions and time-thieves.
- Shut the door. Get away from the voices and noises outside your room. Try to keep it as silent as possible to be able to focus on your work.
When you have removed those sources of interruptions and distractions I like to take it a bit further.
I reduce and clean up visual clutter.
What you clean up may differ from person to person.
Just like the factors above.
But I like to do these three things before I for instance start writing a post like the one you are reading right now:
- Declutter the desk. I remove old coffee mugs, put things back where I got them, order any loose papers in neat piles and throw out what is not needed. This creates a clean workspace with a minimum of visual distractions.
- Declutter the desktop. If I have any files/icons on the desktop that should be stored somewhere else on the computer I move them. What I don’t need anymore I throw out.
- Do the dishes. Since I live in a small apartment the dirty dishes are never far away. And for some reason they really add to my mental clutter. I have a hard time focusing on getting things done when they are looming in the background. So I do the dishes and a big part of my mental clutter disappears.
All these things are very simple and can be done quickly.
Creating this cone of silence makes your workspace look nice and clean. But the real upside is how it affects your mind. A decluttered and ordered workspace brings clarity and order to the mind. A silent workspace without the opportunity to distract yourself keeps your mind focused on what you want to get done.
It’s not always fun to give up your distractions. It’s not easy at first. I’m still trying to do it more consistently. But I’m improving and I am increasing my effectiveness and ability to focus on one single task. And I feel happier and more satisfied with my work and what I actually get done when I work in the silent and decluttered zone.
I still listen to music, of course. But nowadays I usually do it between sessions in the cone of silence.
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