You have only 40 seconds to focus. How much will you accomplish?
I heard this alarming fact in author Chris Bailey’s Ted Talk on focus. He warns if you have your phone nearby you are only able to focus for 40-second sprints.
As a mompreneur, you're dealing with more than just that interruption. You’ve got a husband that needs you to run an errand, a friend who needs to unload her fight with mom, and the incessant needs of those kids.
Interruptions cost you every time. This is known as a switching cost. As soon as we take our focus off of our task and put it on something else, our mind takes some time to refocus when we return to the original task. It's also a waste of energy. The reason you're going to feel really drained by the end of that task is that you're pulling yourself back and pulling yourself back and pulling yourself back because you're constantly interrupted every 40 seconds.
I used to struggle with silencing all of those distractions too, but I realized if I didn’t find a way to make space for my dreams they were always going to remain just things I visit when I close my eyes.
Helpful vs Harmful
Some interruptions are helpful. If you're working on a task, and your phone notifies you that we need to get on the call in 10 minutes, that's helpful. There are some interruptions that are harmful. If you have Instagram notifications turned on and receive them every time one of the 1000 people you follow posts on Instagram, that's not so helpful and probably very distracting.
There are also three categories of interruptions: technology, internal interruptions, and people.
I’ve run a list like this before. Check it out here.
Today I want to introduce you to my new favorite way to silence the bells and whistles of your precious smartphone.
The first is just for Apple Users. Let me point your attention to the new focus feature.
If you tap the top of your phone and move your finger down you will find the control center. Focus now lives where do not disturb used to be. It comes with focus presets for personal, work, sleep, and driving. There’s also a + to create your own custom feature. If you tap on one of the presets it will turn on.
Press the 3 dots and you’ll see options to turn it on for a set period of time or based on location. Finally, you can tap settings where you can customize contacts and apps that are allowed to break your focus.
Are you ready for the best part?
My favorite thing about this new feature is that you can have it turned on without even having to touch your phone. Admit it. How often do you grab your phone to silence distractions, but get lost in the latest group text?
Here’s the magic you’ve been waiting for…tap on the schedule or automation button. You can set it up to turn on based on time, location, what app you are using, or smart activation.
Here’s how I’m using it. Every workday 9-10:30 am is my best time to get focus work done. I have my work preset to turn on Monday through Friday during these times. It silences all the interruptions without me having to do a thing!
Also, you can activate your focus settings from your apple watch.
The devices are easy to silence. The human factor is a bit more challenging. Here’s my top tip:
Communicate with the humans that share your space. Adults and kids. Plus know their limits for respecting your boundaries.
A toddler is quite different from a teenager.
Here’s what this looks like.”Hey kids, I need to get some work done. It’s going to take me 30 minutes and then I’ll be back to play. Unless someone is bleeding or vomiting, pretend like I’m not here.”
Your odds are better if you can close the door to the office or at least put on some beats (something to signal you’re busy). Use a sign.
Take a minute to write down where you are when interrupted. This alone might get them to walk away.
Expect the interruption and when it comes redirect with an “I can’t talk now I’ll be out in 15 like I promised.”
Also, pay attention to matching the right work to the right time. Here’s an example. Say your toddler wants to play with trains, you can effectively sit next to him and check emails. Can you play trains and write a blog post? I’m guessing NO!
These are the most challenging, in my opinion. Suppose you're writing a blog post and an idea pops into your head. As an example, I forgot to order my daughter's contacts from the optometrist.
Rather than following the thought and making the phone call, park that idea somewhere. I like to use my day timer. I funnel all of these thoughts into my task manager at the end of each day.
What if you're out running around and you have that internal thought come up? This is where I like to use my phone again. I'll just say hey Siri, remind me to put that package in the car when I get home.
I hope you’ve found more focus through the tips above, but I want to take it one step further and plant the seed for you to think about how we can change our world systemically to take back our attention.
You don't have to chose between your personal and professional life. Here's my secret weapon for getting the family chaos to calm.