Focused Work: how do we get anything done, at all?

Focused Work: how do we get anything done, at all?

I have always had this problem. I know what I need to do. I don’t always know how to start. It’s as if there’s a bridge out, even though I can see the destination on the other shore. And I used to try strategies like Work Breakdown Structure, Getting Things Done, or Pomodoro to try and figure out how to manage time. But maybe this app, Focused Work will be the one that breaks my mental block.

I do not procrastinate intentionally. It just looks like this to the outside observer. I don’t put off until deadlines, I just can’t force myself to begin. It’s work, just to push through and begin the work.

This has only become more of a shared experience now that everyone is working from home. I see other people struggling with the lack of structure (When is work? Where is work? Work is always, work is all around us, wherever we can be reached.)

I was talking with Michael Tigas about this, and about he had already been working on an app, Focused Work, to create timers named for specific tasks. You could use it as a Pomodoro timer, where you break work down into 25 minutes, but you don’t have to.

Another way that might work, and I used to do, was to work for 40 minutes, with a 10-15 minute break. I’d do this so I had enough time to get into a flow-state, where my work was moving, and not stop short – but also enough time that if I wasn’t able to get productive, I’d stop, reset, before restarting.

Brains are weird, man. Just naming the task, and clearly defining it, makes it a little easier to get moving. On the Mac, I used to use Daniel Jalkut’s excellent Flextime. On iOS, Focused Work looks great.

Timers can be chained together in larger Focus Sessions. Every timer represents a different step of that work session. One of the pre-installed Focus Sessions has a 45-minute timer for focused work, followed by a 5-minute break timer, then another 45 minutes of focused work. That’s not far from what I was doing already, years ago.

Another included session kicks off with a 5-minute planning period before the focused work begins. You can make multi-stage focus sessions, or single timers. And that’s great, but sometimes, it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s where those pre-installed sessions are so helpful.

There’s more to it, of course. You can rate sessions. You can log them in Toggl, to track work time. And Michael promises more features to come, including a Mac app at some point. But above all, it’s another tool to help overcome that first step.

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