A simple tool to retrain our brains to focus


I love variety. While, after 13 years doing this work, I still don’t have a ‘typical’ day, some of my favourites include a mixture of different types of work. Writing, teaching a yoga class, seeing a few clients, even doing a little admin.

And I know lots of people who’d much rather have specific client days, teaching days, writing days. Even with my love of mixing it up, it’s easy to get carried away with bite sized jobs and lose focus.

Grouping similar tasks together helps and a little tool I came across via Marie Forleo (click HERE for her video) has been pretty revolutionary.

There’s a part of me that hates the word ‘focus’. I’ve always been drawn to different things and remember being told ‘focus, focus, focus’ from the age of 10.

I’ve created a business (feelbettereveryday.co.uk and my journalism and writing) which allows me to indulge my curiosity and interest in a wide range of areas. Having said that (and a part of me still cringes writing this), focusing on one thing at a time is important.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that only after seeing Marie’s video did I realise that turning the notifications on my phone onto silent was an option. Amazing. I still check my phone many, many times a day but I do so when I choose to as opposed to it being such a Pavlovian response to a ping.

Even better is her idea of a ‘Onesie’. Writing down one thing that really must be done. I’ve always depended on my desk diary (I used to call it my ‘brain’) and typically number the tasks for the following day so I can hit the ground running when I start work and move through them in a logical order.

Marie’s ‘Onesie’ idea goes further. Rather than having the most important task of the day get lost in all the other items on your list, you write it down, as a verb.

For example, mine today is to DRAFT ____ COLUMN. Another day, it might be to draft another feature or column or to research something or even to read such and such. I don’t have to leave for clients and teaching for a while and having this, in large letters, right next to my computer means I won’t have to reschedule it. In 13 years’ as a freelance journalist, I’ve always been ahead of deadline but this extra focus really helps me.

For years, I’ve marked actual appointments, like teaching or seeing clients and supervisees, in a different colour ink (I use a third colour for social and fun things). They naturally stand out.

But Marie’s ‘Onesie’ approach is brilliant for the type of thing that takes more headspace than lots of other items but is important.

Personally speaking, I now write my ‘Onesie’ for the next workday as I tidy my desk at the end of the previous workday. I pop it under my computer and then I don’t even need to ponder the most important task for the day in the morning as it’s ready to go next to my computer and remind me to (gaaaggghh – I still have some resistance) focus until I’ve completed it.

Have you tried this?

 How did you find it?

What else helps you focus?

Feel free to comment below.




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