Minimize audio and visual cues

Have a look at the ‘Circles of Attention’ model shared with you at the start of the Focus block. Our most immediate distractions come from our environment, often in the form of audio, visual or other sensory cues that catch the attention of the wandering mind. Here are some tips to minimize such cues.

  • Phone mute and facing down – Even better, leave it in another room. It is much easier to do focused work when you don’t have any text messages, phone calls, or alerts interrupting your focus. If the phone is left in another room, the very fact that you have to get up and walk to it to check it will likely keep you in your seat.
  • Use a noise-cancelling, over-ear headset to block out noise – passing traffic, neighbors’ house renovations and simple background talk or commotion can all derail your best focus intentions. A noise-cancelling over-ear headset, with or without music (see below) effectively reduces and even eliminates sound disturbance. It also signals to the people around you that you’re in focus mode and prefer not to be disturbed. A simple yet good enough set can be bought for as little as €20, a small price to pay for more silence in your head.
  • Work in full screen mode – if you can see an icon on your screen, then you will be reminded to click on it occasionally. However, if you remove the visual cue, then the urge to be distracted subsides in a few minutes. Thus, if you’re reading something in your browser, let it take up the whole screen. If you’re writing a document, auditing an Excel sheet or doing some programming work, let whatever software you’re using be in full screen mode. You can set up your desktop so that the menu bar disappears automatically. You will not see the time, the icons of other applications, or any other distractions on the screen. Your world narrows down to that one piece of work you’re focusing on.