Let’s face it. You don’t really know why you can’t focus. Wherever you go, something, maybe small, maybe big distracts you. It happens to all of us all the time. And it truly is annoying, but you already know that. You just want to start doing the things you’re supposed to do without major distractions. Is it achievable? Definitely. Before you start to train your brain (I’m going to write about that in the near future) you need to clean up your surroundings. Not the tools you use like your computer or notebook, but the place where you work. Your environment.
1 Get rid of the unnecessaryFollowing the philosophy conveyed in Greg McKeown’s Essentialism, which is an amazing piece of literature and ranks high on my book recommendation list, we must focus on the essentials. What does this mean? When you want to design a better workplace, the first step is to evaluate the necessity of all the tools you have in your current one. For example; look at your desk and evaluate the items you have on it using my process:
- What is this thing? (Tool, decoration, maintenance, useless shit, etc.)
- How much value does it hold? (especially personal stuff such as souvenirs or decorations, not material value)
- How often do I actually use it? (be honest)
- Does it actually help me achieve my goals?
- If it’s not directly contributing to my goals, is it inspirational but not distractive?
If the item isn’t satisfying you, simply get rid of it. Seriously.2 Create empty spaceNow that you’ve got rid of all the unimportant things, you probably have more space. If not, you need to get rid of more stuff. Empty space is crucial because it creates a breathing space for your brain. When you’re tired or demotivated your brain has space to relax. But now that space is not stuffed with more tiring things, it’s relaxing. Check out Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin: https://amzn.to/2C0uGex. You’ll suddenly feel more creative and decompressed.3 Clean everythingYou just got rid of all the things that distracted you and created breathing space. The last step is to simply clean it up. Wipe your desk. Vacuum the floor. Clean your window. Now that you have all that empty space, even one breadcrumb will be incredibly annoying. Keeping your space clean is one of the simplest yet most important work-related habits.4 Equip the space with a few very useful and non-distractive toolsThis part is maybe not for you, as you might already have all those things, but if not, then here are some of the things I couldn’t live without:
- A bin. It’ll make cleaning and throwing stuff out way easier.
- A paper tray. If you’re a student, you’ll always have to deal with paper, no matter how much you like/dislike it. Having a simple, three-level paper tray will make less overwhelmed by it. Label the top level To-do, the middle one doing, and the lowest one done.
5 Add something that motivates youI know, I know. Every single boring corporate office is full of shitty motivational posters. I’m not trying to convince you to them. But maybe there’s a piece of art, a math equation or something else that simply motivates you. Don’t over-stuff your room with too many inspirational paintings by Picasso because at that point they’ll become distractive. Keep it simple yet powerful.
You’ll immediately see the benefits of a non-distractive, symbiotic study environment. While it’s only the first step achieving total focus or Deep Work, it’s already relieving.
If you want to focus, revise your surroundings.