Brain Training: How to Stay Focused and Stop Multitasking

The flexibility of online life, connected life, and mobile life is turning your brain to mush. Do one thing at a time.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #372

Stay Focused When Writing

My Get-it-Done Guy episodes started out taking me about an hour and a half to write. Now, they often take 3-5 hours, just to write 1,100 words. That's because every two sentences, I stop and check email, or Facebook, or see how many viewers I have on my NaughtyProductivityExperts.com webcam channel. Ironically, this very sentence is being composed almost 5 hours after the previous one, thanks to my stopping for a moment to check email.

When you're writing, use the Hemingway method. Start typing and keep going. Use a full-screen text editor that eliminates visual distraction. Turn off notifications. Then start typing and don't stop until you're done. Then go back and edit. Pretty soon you'll be writing best-sellers as fast as Danielle Steele!

Stop Multitasking When Talking

There's nothing that tells you someone cares like sharing your deepest hopes and dreams with them, and then having them look up from their smartphone and say, "I just got to a whole new Candy Crush level!" When you're talking to someone, turn your phone off—or at least to vibrate—and put it out of sight. In the 1980s, you had to go to the phone, you couldn't carry it with you. Phone multitasking wasn't very easy. At best, you could talk and try to watch Dallas at the same time. But you wouldn't. Because you needed to find out who shot JR, so you'd tell your friend to call back after the show was over. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, just pretend JR was a Pokemon, and you'll be fine.)

If you want to blow your mind with the advanced exercise, try focusing while texting with someone. Rather than switching to some other activity while you wait for the other person to respond, just stay present and wait for their response, without doing something else. It's kind of mind-blowing. You learn just how little is really getting communicated in text, and how slow it is.

Use Social Media and Email Sparingly

Social media and email are inherently multitasking. Your attention gets tossed between topics in whatever order they hit your timeline, feed, or inbox. Use these sparingly. Like saturated fats, they're unhealthy, but super-tasty and addictive. Like any good drug dealer, Mark Zuckerberg has made $44 billion dollars figuring out how to make Facebook ever-more-addictive, and in the process, has probably given most of us permanent brain damage. Viva la social media.

In short, do what you can to start brain training in how to stay focused. Talking, listening, reading, and writing are all things we do better and faster when we do them with our full attention. If you can't do them for extended periods—like five minutes—practice. Remove distractions from the area entirely, and if your mind drifts, wait for it to drift back and then keep going. Thanks for listening all the way to the end.

I'm Stever Robbins. I help people live extraordinary lives in business, entrepreneurship, or the social arena. If you want to know more, visit http://SteverRobbins.com

Work Less, Do More, and Have a Great Life!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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