Don’t Be Alarmed
Episode #4 of the course How to stay focused: Ten top hacks for motivation by K.C. Finn
When I know that I have a fun evening planned, or even when I just want it to hit 5 pm so I can officially punch out guilt-free, I get into a terrible habit of watching the clock. As you might have already heard or experienced, watching the clock tends to psychologically slow down our perception of time passing, which can make a long day seem even longer and put our focus under strain. Today’s lesson examines methods to combat that and get into the opposite way of perceiving time.
The old adage “time flies when you’re having fun” is true for most, but have you ever noticed how time also flies when you’re really busy? Total mental engagement with a task, whether it’s for leisure or work purposes, really does make the brain lose track of time, and thus it leaves less space in our heads for boredom and distraction to creep in. Clock-watching and other anti-focus habits can ruin this level of engagement, so today’s practice looks at ways to get around the tick-tock pressure of the workday routine.
But it isn’t enough to simply cover the clock in the corner of your screen. Time management is also about engaging with work for appropriate amounts of time, avoiding mental burnout, and taking a break once in a while. The theory behind today’s practical steps involves doing all of this in balance.
As part of the planning phase of your workday, especially when you’re in a homeworking setting, you should plan some set times when you intend to stop and take a break. It may seem counterproductive to plan your break and leisure times before you actually think about work, but in terms of mental attitude, it’s healthy to admit and allow that you will need some time to blow off steam and rest your mind during your day. Using a mobile phone, computer timer, or an interactive device like an Echo, set yourself some break-time alarms. I usually tend to set them somewhere between 60-90 mins apart, depending on how I am organizing my day, with a longer break scheduled for my lunch or dinner.
Once you have your timers set, turn any other sounds and alerts off on the device so that it will only make a noise to remind you it’s time for a break. From here, cover your clocks. Whether it’s putting a sticky note over the corner of your screen, turning away from a prominent clock in the room, or taking off your watch and hiding it in your pocket, now is the time to remove all temptation to clock-watch. You can put your trust in the fact that your alarms will alert you when it’s time to take a break and get on with your tasks until that little noise of joy arrives to tell you you’ve achieved a successful period of work.
Getting the hang of the length of the timers and alarms which you’ll need can be the bugbear when you’re trying this method out, and be aware that it might change on a daily basis depending on other factors and distractions which might affect your focus and motivation. The important thing is not to beat yourself up about the length of time for which you work before the alarm goes off, but to celebrate the fact that you have worked that section of time without seeking distractions or watching the clock. As you hone this skill and learn to stop listening for the tick of the clock, you’ll soon enter that marvelous zone where time flies and your productivity soars.
In Lesson Five, we’ll explore a tried and true method that focuses on the natural concentration patterns of the brain, and utilizes them to make the most out of your time and energy. When you need to get larger amounts of work done, using this strictly timed method will allow you to recharge your brain at appropriate intervals and get the most out of your time.
See you then!
If you work in an environment where you can’t have alarms pinging loudly that might upset others, consider trying out Google’s own in-browser timer that you can attach headphones to. Find out how to use it here.
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