🎯 Can You Focus for 10 Minutes?
Do you struggle to focus on a task even for just 10 minutes?
Whenever you start working on something you don’t want to do, do you often feel the urge to click away and look up something unrelated to your task, check your email, or browse your favorite website? Do you let apps send you notifications and hijack your attention at any moment?
Let’s say you work for 8 hours a day. During those 8 hours, do you know how long you’re 100% focused on the tasks you need to complete? 6 hours? 5 hours?
You probably focus for fewer hours than you think. You might believe you’ve studied or worked for a long block of time, but if you could see exactly how long you’re totally focused, you’d likely realize you don’t spend that much time on the task at hand.
🤔 Why Can’t You Focus?
In today’s wired world, attention is at a premium. It’s a form of currency. Tech companies invest plenty of resources into developing apps and devices to capture your attention.
Unfortunately for us, they’re very clever, and we often end up at their mercy.
⏰ Time Management = Pain Management
What do these tech companies know that you don’t?
In their book, Uncommon Sense Teaching, Barbara Oakley, Beth Rogowsky, and Terrence Sejnowski explain that when you try to focus on a task you don’t want to do, a part of your brain that processes pain signals, the insular cortex, gets activated, and you actually feel pain.
But as soon as you switch tasks to something you enjoy, such as checking your email, watching your favorite YouTube videos, or scrolling through your Twitter feed, the pain goes away. These companies focus on creating services and devices to ease the pain you feel when you try to concentrate, and they do a fantastic job.
When you switch tasks, the pain subsides. Since the pain goes away, your brain thinks it’s a good thing. But are you aware of the price you pay for it? Research shows that task switching can cost as much as 40 percent of your productive time.
So, time management is actually pain management.
🔄 Replacing a Bad Habit with a Good Habit
Even in this distracted world, there are people who have learned to manage that pain and successfully replaced their bad task-switching habits with good “focus” habits.
Getting rid of bad habits and replacing them with good ones is crucial for your personal development.
I’ve written a few posts about habits, and “How to Build Good Habits Like a Pro: 10 Tips” is one of them. Learning how to replace the bad task-switching habit with a good “focus” habit will definitely work to your advantage.
Do you know the most important ingredient of habit formation? It’s REPETITION. You need to repeat the action you want many times to make it a habit.
👨🏫 What’s the Best Technique to Build Your “Focus” Habit?
The method you’ll want to try is the Pomodoro Technique. It was invented by an Italian, Francesco Cirillo, when he was a university student. He wanted to be able to focus on his studies. To do that, he used a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) shaped kitchen timer. This technique is straightforward, and all you need is a timer.
Here’s how you implement the Pomodoro Technique to help you focus:
1️⃣ Remove as many distractions as possible so your attention won’t be hijacked. Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” to block notifications. Hide the phone somewhere you can’t see it. Turn off all app notifications on your computer. Close the chat window.
2️⃣ Pick a task.
3️⃣ Set a timer for 25 minutes. If you don’t want to waste time resetting the timer, get two timers: one for the focus period and another for the break.
4️⃣ Start the 25-minute timer and focus on the task for the next 25 minutes. Don’t let anything distract you. (There are many phone apps, such as Forest, but for me, a phone was too tempting, so I use a simple timer.)
5️⃣ When 25 minutes are up, take a 5-minute brain break. Relax your brain and try not to focus on anything during that break. Don’t check your email. You can grab a cup of tea or do some exercise.
6️⃣ Then do another 25 minutes of focused work, followed by a 5-minute break.
7️⃣ Repeat this cycle 2 or 3 times. Once you’ve completed 2 or 3 cycles, take a longer break, such as 30 minutes.
✅ Why is the Pomodoro Technique Effective?
This technique works because you know you’ll get a break in 25 minutes, which motivates you to focus.
Even if you’re not fully convinced or motivated, give the Pomodoro Technique a try.
In his book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David D. Burns, M.D., says that “action must come first, and then the motivation comes later on.” He states, “if you wait until you’re ‘in the mood,’ you may wait forever!”
By taking action, you’ll get motivated. As you become more motivated, you’ll take more action. This is a virtuous cycle.
🧠 How Does the Pomodoro Technique Help with Learning?
In addition to the focused time you gain, the Pomodoro Technique offers some advantages in terms of learning.
Barbara Oakley, Beth Rogowsky, and Terrence Sejnowski explain that the short brain breaks give your neurons a chance to consolidate. These brain breaks will help new information be stored in your long-term memory.
In my previous post, “How to Become a Creative Thinker,” I wrote that for learning to happen, your brain needs to go through the cycle of “focused mode” and “diffuse mode.” By taking a short break between focused sessions, your brain will go through that necessary cycle.
If you’re convinced, give the Pomodoro Technique a try. Even if you’re not convinced, try it anyway. Remember, action comes first before motivation. You’ll be amazed at how effective this simple technique is and how much it helps you focus.
🚀 Take Action Now!
Get a timer and try the Pomodoro Technique. On a spreadsheet, tally each Pomodoro session. Looking at all the Pomodoro sessions you’ve completed will make you feel good, and it will work as a “reward,” which is another essential ingredient of your habit formation process.
I would love to hear about your experiences using the Pomodoro Technique. Please share them in the comment section below.