How I stay focused

All things being equal, if I could, I’d use Basecamp for every client and job. I’m not a huge fan of the design style, but the thing I love about Basecamp is that it’s simple to learn and simple to use. I’ve used it with a lot of clients, some more comfortable with tech than others, and I’ve never had a hard time with them using it. Other approaches, such as Asana, require a fair bit of training and even then, some clients just never twig.

But I can’t always use Basecamp. Maybe you can’t either. So, in my current situation (where I can’t use Basecamp at my day job), this is how I stay focused.

  1. I don’t use the corporate-issued computer. It blocks things like iCloud which is a vital part of my workflow (like using Bear) and that’s not even getting into the fact that my issued laptop is a low-end computer and the place that I’m currently working doesn’t seem to feel that they need to provide anything other than a laptop and a power cable. (Let alone a good chair ($800), decent monitor ($2,000), mouse and keyboard ($150), or anything else that I use every day like my speakers, headphones, and desk.) Also, I use my computer for more than just work, and I’m already maintaining a laptop plus an iPad and iPhone. Maintaining a second computer (one with nanny software that causes issues) is a waste of my time.
  2. I use to maintain a daily todo list. ctrl+space will allow me to enter a new todo from anywhere. cmd+t sets something due for today and cmd+e sets something due for that evening. I start every morning with Things and end every day with it. I’m constantly moving stuff around and evaluating my tasks.
  3. is my second brain. is very simple. I think this (and the design) is why I love it. I’ve tried to love Todoist, but I keep coming back to Things. But because Things is so simple, I have to augment it with something else for more extensive notes—hence Bear. I’ve actually found this to be a blessing because now I can keep those notes forever and they aren’t associated with a ‘todo’. So, in the ‘notes’ field of things, I’ll often link out to a note in Bear. You can do so by clicking on the three dots in the upper right of your Bear note and getting a link to your note.
  4. Meditate. I’m awful at this, but when I force myself to do it once a day, it helps. I use the Calm app. I also have this set up as a repeating todo in Things.
  5. Every day I journal. I tried the Bullet Journal but my handwriting is gross and I need a digital method of copying things that interest me. I also put a lot of photos in my journal and you can’t do that with analog (unless you like printers, and I don’t). I tag the journal entry with journal/YYYY/MM/DD in Bear and this creates a folder structure for me. This is also a recurring todo in Things.
  6. I make it a point to work out every day. Usually this is mountain biking, but I mix it up with running and am going to try and get back into climbing. If I don’t work out during the day, then my family knows immediately as I turn into a monster.
  7. Momentum Dash (extension for Safari) has a Pomodoro clock and while I’m not religious about it, I use that sometimes.
  8. The job I’m currently at has a lot of meetings. 5+ hours of meetings/day is not unusual, so I’ve started to just block my calendar off. If you are also in a situation where your job is talking about doing things vs actually doing things and that drives you nuts, maybe try blocking your day off as well.
  9. When I’m taking a break, I try to stretch, do push ups or pull ups, or just sit on the porch with my dog.
  10. I start by 9am at the latest and end by 5pm at the latest. No exceptions. If you think you’re getting more work done by working longer, I think you’re fooling yourself. I live in the PNW, so in the winter it gets dark early; so, in the winter I block off two hour lunches and ride (or run) at lunch. I still get 8 hours in, but I’m able to ride/run in the daylight. I’ve learned the hard way to actually block this time, otherwise it gets filled.

I love working from home. Other than a few years at Amazon where I had to go in (which sucked), I’ve been working remotely for almost twenty years. I love being able to light incense, play my music obnoxiously loud, work out midday, and being able to do things like cook dinner for my kids at night. All the stuff about ‘people must be present to collaborate in person’ is bullshit. It’s not my opinion, it’s been proven. But luckily, I don’t have to go into work.

Some people are super productive at home (I tend to be), but everyone can always use another tool to help. Maybe some of these ideas will help you too?