do what you are doing.

It seems somewhat tautological but really it’s a piece of advice I need reminding of every 6 months or so.

If you spend your work hours compulsively checking your email or your relaxation time compulsively checking your code then you’re probably not getting the best out of either. It’s hard to think that you’ve had a successful day of work if you’ve read 20 news articles. It’s hard to think that you’ve really had a weekend if you’ve checked your computer program every half hour.

Sometimes I’m good at sticking to this advice and, of course, other times I’m not. Every now and then I need to stop myself and make up some arbitrary rules in order to get back in the habit of doing what I’m doing (I’ve checked email and tumblr while writing this up so I must be going through a bad phase.)

Here are some various rules I use to focus on doing work at work:

– The Pomodoro Technique (work for 25 minutes in every half hour)

– Turn off your internet (often impractical for me)

– Don’t check any media (incl. email), or leave your seat (at all!) for the first 2 work hours of your day

– Set mini goals with time limits

And, just as importantly in my opinion, focus on not doing work at home:

– Don’t bring any maths books or papers (or whatever you do) home

– Turn off your computer (if you use it for work)

– Go outside

– Choose to do something or nothing rather than being absentmindedly online doing neither (hence this blogpost)

I think the main “problem” is that life has natural pauses. I’m waiting for code to run, I don’t know what to write next, my maths got a bit too hard, whatever. When there are natural pauses we should stop and evaluate what we use those pauses to do. Before you stand up, before you change tabs or windows, work out whether you really need to. All the techniques I mentioned are really just ritualistic ways of forcing us not to do whatever we normally do during a pause.

Does anyone else have any good focusing methods?

PS: The photos are from Austria.

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