Focus and Productivity: Get Some Help!

Work Focus & Productivity

Work Focus & Productivity

The battle for productivity and getting stuff done is never-ending.

So many of us spend a LOT of time in front of computer monitors and accomplish a lot of things. However, the temptation to give yourself just a TEENSY break and take a quick glance at Facebook, or your favorite news site, or a live feed / video….or a quick game of Solitaire…that’s a constant thing.

I have this problem as much as anyone. My business revolves around the Internet, digital media and marketing, and a lot of my deliverables for clients require my heavy use of tools and sites that are Just One Click Away from making a comment on someone’s post on Facebook, starting a conversation on Twitter, following link after link from an interesting article, my Inbox, and so on. Suddenly, the day has evaporated…

Don’t tell me this never happens to you (unless, of course, your role is such that you rarely are in front of a screen….).

I have done a lot of study and research on focus (cognitive science and “discipline-building” science / studies), building habits, priority management, personal productivity and so on. There are a number of systems out there that can help you if you adhere to the discipline and utilize the tools and workflows  However, many times they can seem cumbersome, or costly (in set-up time and, if there are tools involved, cash…and sometimes they just don’t feel natural, so they don’t get used…). I have launched a number of personal programs to better my use of time and attention over the years. Especially in the past few years, it has become even more critical to my success in getting things done that NEED to get done. My real-world success with these has been spotty.

I’ve mentioned in other articles about the affect that the book Deep Work by Cal Newport has had on my understanding of the problem and the options for creating a solution that works for me. I have incorporated a few things, and of those things a couple have worked for me. Nonetheless, my self-discipline has lagged in really making headway. I even tried working with a coach, which had some success, but, being human, generally made me annoyed at the coach.

I have looked at a number of processes or tools that are, if you will, impersonal. Something that would be very customizable, so that I could stretch myself to greater discipline, but allowed me the flexibility I need, given the dynamic nature of my business. I don’t exactly recall where I first ran across the tool FindFocus  but what I read about it initially drove me to do further research. The flexibility really impressed me. I went to the web site and saw that it was available for a free trial. I signed up for that and awaited the verification mail.

My next big surprise was that the person behind FindFocus, Martin Boeddeker, has a very interesting engagement process. His mail mentioned that, as he has conversed with new users of FindFocus, he found that they were not having the success that he knew was possible. He contacted some of them and discovered that they lacked a bit of mentoring and personal Q&A that would amp up their facility with the product and their goals for increased productivity. As a result, in this mail he told me that he wanted to set up a Skype call with me to install and go over the product, how I might use it, answer any questions, and take part in a conversational mentoring session so I could really get my mind (and keyboard) around how I might use it, along with the trust-building component of having this connection with the product’s originator. I quickly set the meeting up and waited for the day.

The day came and I fired up Skype. Martin was punctual and we started out the conversation with a few “getting to know you” niceties. He is an amiable and intelligent person with a real passion for assisting others make the best use of their hours. He has a compelling personal story behind this drive, which I won’t go into, but it is sufficient to say that he is clearly aware of our propensity for wasting time and the negative effect that has on each of us, professionally and personally. He dove into a screen share to show me how he is using it, describing a number of helpful features and why they are there, how to create profiles, schedules, sequences, pausing the focus and a lot of other things you can customize it for. He asked a number of insightful questions about my business, my work and existing workflows, and demonstrated real concern about how I might use FindFocus to increase the effectiveness of my time spent on my computer. Our half hour conference turned into an hour, during which I became convinced this was a product that would help my productivity processes (I have it running now, so I may focus on writing…..).

After completing the call, I spent a bit of time getting my first schedule set up to use going forward….a daily block of morning creative time to spend writing and studying. I also discovered a possible bug in the software (all those years at Microsoft have made me sensitive to software that isn’t performing as it should…), so I mailed him with the issue. He asked me to file a bug report (which you can do from the program interface…something I had missed in our earlier conversation…), which I have done. Given his responsiveness to date and his desire to improve FindFocus, I have high confidence that the bug will be resolved in a future update.

I tell you this story for two reasons:
  • First, the monster that is professional and personal productivity bedevils us all. Whatever works for me may or may not work for you, but I encourage you to check FindFocus out, if you desire a little automated help in building up the good habits of focus.
  • Second, Martin’s engagement model is an example of extremely good customer advocacy. As his business grows I don’t know how this will scale for him, but the power of the mentor model for learning goes all the way back to Plato and Aristotle. Want to teach someone how to do something so they actually can use it? One-to-one mentoring / teaching / coaching is the key. Scaling this to a large business is the challenge, but the pay-off can be HUGE! You get customers that become a tight community willing to work with you, advocate for you, and support your business and your passion, since it aligns with their passion.

Customer Advocacy……that’s 21st century marketing at its most effective.

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