Monday Focus

Mornings can be tough. Adding a first grader to the mix does not improve the situation. Throw in a three year old on his second day of preschool and I'm close to tears.

I didn't feel in control of my day or my life. But, encouraged by Mathias Meyer's "10 Things I Do Every Day To Stay Productive," I gave myself a pep talk and made a plan.

The Setup

Minimize distractions. Turn off Twitter: no mobile notifications, no little blue birdie in the menu bar promising social interaction. Turn off email: no bold subject lines begging to be read, no tabs telling me how much unread mail I've got. Hide IRC. If it has a status indicator, hide it.

Use the Pomodoro timer. Let it be a reminder that you're in work mode. Don't get distracted, a short break is right around the corner.

Plan the day. I took Meyer's advice and wrote down three big things I wanted to accomplish this week, and three things I wanted to accomplish today.

The Result

Today felt great. Even with three meetings, I was more satisfied than I've been in a long time. I made a strong effort to really stick to Pomodoro, and disabling Twitter was a huge help. I probably pressed my Twitter hotkey a dozen times during natural short pauses (compiles, long loading pages). What would otherwise have turned into a minute or more catching up on Twitter, followed by some amount of context switching, instead was this strange moment of self-awareness and a return to the task at hand.

I found the Pomodoro breaks were more rewarding when I minimized distraction between those breaks. Why take a break when you've just spent 10 minutes down some social media rabbit hole? By sticking to the system, I felt less guilty about the breaks I did take: even the most frivolous downtime was only a few minutes long. It also condensed many forms of distraction: email, IRC, social media, getting up for a drink or snack, all can wait until the next break.

It was one good day, but it was a day I sorely needed.