Learning Search

ResearchBuzz: The Problem of Focus

As you may know, RB is not my full-time job. I have a 30-hours-a-week job, which takes up my Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. On Wednesdays I spend the day with my Granny. She and my mother and I go out to lunch, and then while my mother’s at her yoga class I hang out with Granny and do whatever she wants – grocery store or a movie or go for a walk or go out in the garden, whatever.

(Are you lucky enough to still have a grandparent? GO HANG OUT WITH THEM. When my work situation changed and I did not have to work so much, my first thought was, “I’ve got to use this time for Granny.” That was almost a year ago and y’all, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And this is getting way too personal so let me get on with this article.)

The full time job means that I do ResearchBuzz in the cracks and crevices of the time I have. Before work, after work, on weekends — I go through my Nuzzel feed on my lunch hour (my lunch 20 minutes) at work. The problem is that I’ve been wrestling a lot over the last several months with  how to manage my time and stay focused on doing ResearchBuzz instead of coming home at the end of the regular work day and just ending up — oh, I don’t know, staring at TweetDeck or getting silly on Twitter. Staying productive.

In the last couple of weeks I feel like I’ve been getting a handle on it, and I wanted to use this article and share with you how I’m handling moving from my work to ResearchBuzz and staying in flow and focused. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m happy with how much progress I’m making.

Please Note: Sometimes these kinds of articles — “I used this and I bought that” — have lots of affiliate links in them. They might impart useful information, but they’re also designed to bring in a bit of the ready from affiliate programs. This article has no affiliate links. It is not sponsored. No person or company or product I’m going to mention here knows that I’m doing it. These things are working for me and hey, I thought I’d tell you about them. Do not taunt happy fun ball.

What I Did Not Do

You ever see articles about those extensions that’ll lock you out of Web sites that might waste your time, like Facebook and Twitter? One of the things I ran into when I was trying to get a handle on my drifting attention was a lot of recommendations to use those extensions. “Just lock yourself out of Facebook! You’ll get so much more done!”

That would not work. If you’re friends with me on Facebook you know I tag people in my posts. I tag them all the time. It’s part of my dream job. (My dream job is be able to share every link I find with someone would would find it useful. I have accepted that I will never get my dream job.) Furthermore, I can get distracted by far more than just social media. And I can’t create a whitelist of sites to visit because then, well, I wouldn’t be able to do ResearchBuzz!  So the standard strategies — lock yourself out, make a whitelist, etc — wouldn’t be workable for me. I needed to concentrate on ways to keep myself from getting distracted.

What I Did Do

I am trying lots of different things, and will go on trying things until I’m perfect (like that’s ever going to happen.) Right at this moment, though, this is what’s helping me.

New Computer

For a long time I used a Chromebox for preparing ResearchBuzz. Chromeboxes are inexpensive, low-profile, and if they get messed up it’s easy to wipe them and start over. The only drawback was the lack of an ASCII/ plain text editor (as opposed to Google Docs.) Chrome OS has a text editor now but it’s not terrific. That’s not the reason I got a new computer, though.

I got a new computer because my Chromebox started to run slower. And slower. And slower. It would crash once or twice a day. And while I had a fair number of tabs open in Chrome at a time — 10 to 15 — I didn’t feel that I was doing enough to kill the performance like that.

What does this have to do with distraction? The Chromebox’ poor performance was leaving me plenty of time to get unfocused from my work. I’d have to pause of few minutes to see if Chrome was just thinking or if it had crashed again. Sometimes pages would load slowly. And in those moments of downtime, I’d check my phone or start thinking about something else or the cat would start slam dancing and the next thing I knew it would be fifteen minutes later.

Happily this was not a difficult or cost-prohibitive fix. I found an inexpensive refurbished Windows computer, installed Linux on it, and I’m getting more done. I had not realized how slowly I was working until I did this. Is your hardware holding you back?

Focused Set of Bookmarks

I didn’t want to lock myself out of social media, but at the same time I needed something to keep me from falling down a rabbit hole when I went to click on one tab and ended up clicking on another. While looking for solutions I found an article in Lifehacker that explained how to set up a set of bookmarks in a folder (this is in Chrome) and launch them all at once.

This is exactly what I needed. I created a bookmarks folder with my 11 critical tabs, and now when I’m ready to work I launch them all in a new Chrome window. The only thing I don’t like about this setup is that the tabs are not “pinned” by default, as I prefer them. But that only takes a few seconds.

That small con is offset by a big pro: the timesinks that draw me in – Facebook, TweetDeck, etc – are in another window. And the act of completely moving to another Chrome window is disruptive enough that I don’t do it mindlessly, and it’s easier to get back on track.

A Little Noise

I can work in silence and often do. However, when I really need to orient myself to working, I find music works. I’ve found one paid resource that works for me, but there are free resources as well. I’m sure you know all about Spotify and Pandora and Amazon and like that. Let me tell you about a few more.

Brain.fm

I found out about Brain.fm via a Web site called AppSumo, which was offering a special deal on lifetime access to it. Brain.fm is designed to keep you focused on your work; it has a FAQ page that explains the science behind it.

I find it works; Brain.fm’s music does keep me focused and kind of holds my brain in that “working” gear, if you know what I mean. But if you’re not getting an AppSumo deal it is kind of expensive and I’m not sure I would have purchased it at its full price. There are other free offerings you can try.

FreeCodeCamp Radio

FreeCodeCamp recently launched a YouTube channel of music for coding. I’ve listened to it some. Most of it is great. A little of it is too “tinkly” for me or has light vocals which I find distracting. I think it’s at least worth a listen. Also, while it doesn’t have much to do with anything I think it’s worth mentioning that the live chat stream is filled with nice people, at least it was the times I listened.

Other YouTube

There are other places on YouTube that offer “study music” or things like that, but most of those have too many vocals to work for me. There is an eight-hour trance/study mix that’s terrific. And even better the whole video is the guy actually doing the mix (I think he leaves to go to the restroom a couple of times, but mostly it’s just him being a DJ.)

SomaFM

If you’re not a big fan of YouTube music and you don’t want to pay for Brain.fm, may I recommend Soma FM? It offers a number of music channels, including one called DEF CON Radio and described as “music for hacking,” but I prefer the Groove Salad channel, as it’s chill and downtempo. There are over 30 channels here so I bet you’ll find something you like. And hey, if you do, maybe you can donate a few bucks to help keep them in business.

I’m Working to Stay on Track

Of course there’s also things like getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well that are a bit outside my wheelhouse for making recommendations – I’m not a life coach. But I find I’m working on those as well, and all three of them — especially getting enough sleep — are also critical.

I’m sure the way I approach focus and productivity will change over time, but this is what’s working for me right now. I love doing ResearchBuzz and I want to do it as well as I can. I’ll keep working at it!

Categories: Learning Search, News, Rants

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