As much as men are fucking themselves over by not eating healthy, lifting, and picking up girls, I firmly believe that the number one cause of self-destruction in our generation is poor information management. Men waste time reading bullshit, they work inefficiently, they live in perpetual state of distraction – it’s harmful shit.
I believe there are two main causes to this trend. One is technology. Distractions are constantly at our fingertips. Whenever we sit down to get some work done, we’re almost always in front of a magical distraction machine that can conjure up everything from interracial gang bangs to cute puppies to Wikipedia articles on the history of pikemen in medieval warfare, styles of lightsabre combat, and cheese. The personal computer is an optimal distraction machine, and the internet was built by the smartest people in the world to maximize its draw on your attention. Don’t feel so bad if you struggle to resist it.
But go ahead and feel a little bad. The second reason why never in the course of human civilization so much time has been wasted by so many, with so few results, is that our generation is composed of a bunch of weak-willed pantywaists who lack the masculine gumption to tuck their chins down, close Twitter, and get some shit done. Your Great Grandpa wouldn’t have needed Leechblock to get him through a work day, simply because he was a better man than you.
Enough sucking though. This guide is going to give you all the tools you need to stop being an easily distracted little wuss. This guide is going to set you up for a lifetime of healthy work habits, smart time management, and stress-free productivity. After reading it, you will have no excuse for any of the precious few hours you have left in your life, that you let slip through your fingers in a haze of kitty gifs. After reading and implementing the seven steps in this guide, your work output and general enjoyment of life will be superhuman.
So without further ado: Thumotic’s Seven Habits Of Optimal Focus For the Modern Man
1) Hard focus
Most people spend their work day floating in an ineffective haze of partial concentration. They’re sort of, kind of working on whatever is in front of them, but they’ve got a phone buzzing in their pocket, Outlook fading in and out in the bottom of their screen, and a few tabs of newspapers, blogs, and social media shenanigans kicking around in a minimized web browser.
This is sub-optimal. Your workflow should be structured around one goal: Maximizing the time you spend in a state of hard focus. I strive to have two work modes: Insane starving wolf on steroids, and totally relaxed hibernating bear. There is no middle ground between these two.
When a man enters a state of hard focus, he can do anything. He is invincible. When you reach hard focus, you work five times as fast as when you’re only half-assing something. Read more about hard focus here.
The way to consistently reach hard focus is simply to train your mind to accept nothing less. When you’re working and you feel your concentration slipping, take a break. Stand up. Walk around. Vow to return to the task only when you’re ready to give it 100%. They key is this: Refuse to ever give yourself permission to do anything at 80%.
2. Set Designated Check Times
How important are you? Let me answer that question for you: Not very. You don’t need to be at the beck and call of the world 16 hours a day. In all likelihood, you don’t need to check your personal email more than once or twice a day. Your Facebook and other such bullshit can be on a once a week schedule.
I don’t know what your work environment is like, but in my observations, people who should be checking their work email every hour check it every few minutes, and people who should be checking it every couple of minutes will learn how to piss with one hand so they don’t have to put down their Blackberry.
In both cases, personal and professional, ponder on how rarely you can get away with checking your shit. Figure out the minimum number of daily checks you can get away with, and start getting away with it.
3. Avoid people
I hate people. Most are some combination of stupid, unreliable, bad communicators, malicious, and unpleasant to look at. the key to avoiding people is to funnel as much of your professional communication as possible through email. This forces colleagues to be brief, leaves a paper trail to whatever incompetence they bring into my life, and keeps all of my projects and correspondence well organized, comprehensive and easily searchable. The spoken word is vague, untraceable, and easily forgettable.
Contrary to popular belief, you are allowed to call your coworkers, subordinates and even bosses, stupid, lazy and incompetent, right to their faces. You just have to use the right wording: “Can I get that in an email?”
4. Get Things Done
I will not even attempt to summarize David Allen’s excellent Getting Things Done. It is the greatest book on productivity and work flow analysis that has ever been written. Buy it, read it, implement the advice in your life. While I’m recommending books, also check out the classic Four Hour Work Week.
5. Block The Internet
I love the internet. It informs, entertains, and to a limited but growing extent, pays my bills. I even love sites that are absolute poison to productivity like Reddit and Twitter. A man can learn a lot about the Zeitgeist by keeping up with the rantings and ravings of pseudonymous jackoffs like myself.
But there’s a time and a place. Hungover on a Sunday morning – right time. Slouching in an office chair putting in ‘face time’ between three and six PM, rather than actually getting shit done – wrong time.
I use a program called Leechblock to keep my internet usage in check. You should too.
6. Pop culture
Pop culture is not completely worthless, but diminishing returns set in pretty damn fast. I don’t think there’s a set limit on how many hours a week or whatever a man should spend on TV, movies and video games. Instead, use this rule: Indulge in pop culture only insofar as you truly enjoy it. if you’re watching TV or playing games just for ‘something to do’, stop it and find something better to occupy your time.
And remember, there is almost always something better to do. The only exceptions are 1) You’re sick or hungover, 2) You’re on a flight, or 3) You’re with a girl and need something to occupy yourself with during your refractory period.
7. Just Do It
My favourite idea in the aforementioned book Gettings Things Done is the two-minute rule: If something will take less than two minutes, do it right away. Always. It’s a great rule.
We can apply it to things that take longer than two minutes as well. You know those retarded little jobs that spend months on your to-do list and intrude in your mind on a daily basis, jarring you out of your serene existence? If not I envy you. Last week I realized that I had put the following three things off for over a month: Renewing my driver’s license; scheduling a restricted firearms licensing test; and paying my hydro bill. Stupid shit. Between five and thirty minutes each. And yet, I let them niggle at my concentration for a month. Then I did them all over a single lunch break.
Little distractions like that have a pernicious effect. More important than the practical consequences of delaying basic life tasks (late fees and such) is the daily cost to your focus as you acknowledge and re-file your little ongoing mental reminder of the shit you need to do. Your mind is a computer, and each open loop clogs up a tiny bit of RAM.
There is nothing worse in life than getting distracted while trying to get work done. Being outright lazy is unfortunate, but at least you get the pleasure of sitting around playing video games and eating Cheetos. An easily distracted man gets nothing done, but also must suffer through the motions of work, and so deprives himself of the pleasures of leisure.
Don’t be that guy any more. Build systems that keep you focused, and abide by them. Read Getting Things Done and implement the advice into your life. Install Leechblock. Cancel NetFlix.