The first month of January of 2018 I took on a big goal for me: focus. Focus has always been elusive as it was something I strove for but with a clear case of undiag-nosed and untreated ADD, it was not easy to deal with. Many half-started projects which were always half-worked on is an obvious effect of lack of clear focus which is always upsetting. So for the month of January, I decided to do one thing at a time. No social media while working, no task switching. I’m going to do one thing at a time and I’m going to do it well.
When creating a habit, I found the first week is the most important and the most trying. It is the week you lay the foundation; if you can lay a good foundation, you will have a very good week two. So the first week I had to find tools to help me. The first tool was planning. I already plan my weeks in advance but now I really needed to use the block schedule I learned from Deep Work to the best of my ability.
Each block is an hour long. I know that I have a hard time starting and I lose focus midway through. The thing to help with that was the Pomodoro timer. I have one on my laptop and it really helps to start it at beginning of every hour. It is advised to have it for 20 minutes to get started but I set it for 45 minutes. 45 Minutes is great to do good work and at end 5-15 minute break is great to stretch. I can really get into the groove and if I get distracted, I see that I have 20 more minutes and it helps me to push through to the end.
On the block schedule, I really try to put in everything: bus ride home, what I do during that ride, lunches, breaks, rest time. This way I have a realistic week. I also started to keep track of hours on different projects. Planning out the week with most important things to do and how much time I want to spend on school, work, side projects really lets me know where my time is going and how to plan things. I also put at the top of each day the one thing I need to do that day, it can be homework or a specific task, but it is the one thing I can’t forget to do. I even put specific homework problems or sections of code I plan to write for projects. Breaking up work like this for my GRE testing really helped.
Another thing that helped is that with my ADD brain, working on a single task means ideas. Ideas for new projects and thoughts of things I “should be” doing come up. The mind doesn’t want to focus and usually, I’d go off on the tangent thinking: ” I remembered this! I can’t not do this now or I won’t do it later.” So I get the non-urgent thing done while not focusing on the important thing. This causes me a lot of lost time in the end because I don’t get deep into the task to do it efficiently and on time. The way I solve it is that my weekly schedule planner is near me. On the back side of that sheet is blank and so I write down these ideas and task on it. Then when the break arrives I try to do the tasks. If they are really important, I do them, if not, I don’t. This way I get my main task worked on without interruption and still remember to do the thing I remembered to do while working on the main task.
While working, sometimes silence is terrible. However, music that I used was foreign music so as not to listen to words. Listening to podcasts was most often terrible, especially those which have really interesting information. So save those for the block hours when are not busy: lunch, bus ride, etc.
So the first week went pretty well. My Pomodoro timer keeps track of me working so I can see that at the beginning of the week I was doing well and then it dropped off, so I’ll have to work harder or think of new habit forming techniques to keep on task. I’ll update this every week to show progress and anything else I learn.
So the thirty days ended and what do I have? Well, I’m not super better but I am better. I try to work with my schedule every day. I notice when I’m off topic more. I stay on topic a lot better. I also notice that although I don’t use the Pomodoro timer every time, I do turn it on more often, especially when I notice myself being distracted.
So, just like flossing and meditating, I don’t expect to totally become good, but much much better. I think this might be one of those things like drinking, where I have to redo it once a year.
But for now, it’s the second day of running every day challenge. Here I go!