Quick post today. Ever have troubles focusing when you have to do work on the computer? Hopefully you are already using the Pomodoro Technique, which can help a lot. Seriously, this is a good read and a great technique. I use it on a daily basis.

With the Pomodoro Technique you basically have four 25-minute blocks of work, each followed up by a 5-minute break. Now, I advocate to play a little game in these 5 minutes, eat an apple or just stare out of the window for a little while. If your 5 minute break is distracting, you find it way harder to get back in the flow when your timer goes off to start another 25 minutes of work.

This week I had a guy in a group of students I was training and he had an interesting question. He said: “Stefan, I just want to check Facebook and my email real quick. I can keep my concentration for a little while, but after two blocks of 25 minutes I am just too curious to see what is happening on the outside world.” 

Well, first of all, I am happy the guy is honest. He acknowledges the problem, he found out why the Pomodoro Technique is not working for him and he tries to solve it.

Second of all. I have the same problem. We live in the age of smartphones, the content of my right pocket seems to be more interesting than whatever is happening in my life. I want to see what is on Facebook, I want to see if I have a new email. Like I am waiting for an email which tells me I am a millionaire.

Not necessary, pretty stupid and destructive for your focus. Now, of course, we need to change the habit, but as discussed in my post about ‘Inbox Pause’, sometimes we just need the first step in order to change our habits.

SelfControl: Stop Going to Distracting Websites

As with Inbox Pause, there is a solution for this problem. Mac users can download an app called ‘SelfControl‘ (the name is really contradictory, as you need an app for your self control). Windows users can use SelfRestraint.

You fill in the websites you don’t want to visit anymore. For me those are sites like Reddit, Facebook and YouTube. But others sites, like Google Analytics or news sites, as well. Anything which can distract you should be on the blacklist.

Now, you set the amount of time you don’t want to visit these sites anymore and hit start. After clicking ‘start’ there is no way back. There is no way you can visit these sites. Changing browsers won’t work, going into the system preferences won’t work. The app changes something in your computer which results in the impossibility to visit these sites, in any way.

Yes, this is pretty radical, but it is a solution. Set the timer for 2 hours (a complete set of four Pomodoro’s) and you cannot get distracted anymore!

It works very good as well when you are pulling an all-nighter for instance, without all the distractions you might actually finish early and have some sleep!

One question I had during the training: “But what if I really need to visit that website?” Yup, no solution. You cannot. But really, is there ever a time when Facebook is an emergency? Really?

Not life changing, but one step closer to productivity and one step closer to the college life you wish to live. Enjoy.

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