Self Care January 2, 2020

How to improve focus as a solo entrepreneur?

Harry Dry @harrydry

Any tips / apps / websites / essays to help with this?

The problem really isn't with my phone. My phone is nearly always on airplane mode. The problem is with my computer. I write articles, get bored, and waste time on bullshit. And it depresses me.

Sometime I do well and I can keep momentum up. Since I started working with my bro it's been better. But I just work in cafes so haven't really got any structure. And I write articles / produce written work(that's my business).

And no disrespect to anyone but writing is a grind. You can't just play music and make fun designs on Sketch.

Sounds weird but I just want to work from 8-5pm. Then call it a day, and chill, see friends. But that literally never happens. The weirder the suggestions the better. Take me to the edge.

Something like blocking Telegram + Twitter + YouTube etc ... between certain hours might be the best option.

Edit: Thank you for the advice. Sorry for not replying (yet). Been focusing 😂

  1. 9

    A lack of focus might be a sign that you haven't created goals for yourself and then from those goals, created tasks with due dates to hold yourself accountable.

    If you haven't, I'd create a written plan of what you want. Don't worry about formatting or perfecting it, just get your goals and thoughts down on paper to help yourself commit to them.

    Sunday night before you go to bed, make sure you've set a clear goal for the week and tasks that need to get completed to get you closer to that goal. This might take a hour of your time, but it's well worth the effort in terms of productivity during the week.

    And practice self-compassion. In other words, don't beat yourself up for not being perfect and hitting every goal or due date. It will happen. Reflect on why you didn't hit it and try to improve next time.

    Finally, set time aside to have fun and enjoy life. Your mind and body need breaks. Your quality of work will be better off for it. Don't feel guilty about it. It's like eating, sleeping, and exercise.

    1. 1

      Cheers Jay. Great advice. Going to try written weekly goals this Sunday

  2. 5

    Read "Digital minimalism" & "Deep Work" by Cal Newport. All your answers are there.

    1. 2

      Both are must-reads for knowledge-working entrepreneurs.

      I'd add to the suggestion list: Rapt by Winifred Gallagher, Me, Myself, and Us by Brian R. Little, and Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

      Newport's books are big on action items (which have been field-tested and refined), but it's always good to read up on some of the underlying cognitive theory so that you can come up with your own approaches.

      Additionally, and these are both quasi-philosophical and off the beaten path a bit, I'd suggest the audible version of the Steven Pressfield's The War of Art for those times you need an eccentric drill sergeant to bark orders in your ear and, if the struggle really gets real, Work the System by Sam Carpenter, which is all about turning your life into a system that delivers the exact output that you design it to deliver. (In your case, the output might be "ship a satisfying day's work by 5pm every day and power down for the night without looking back.")

      1. 2

        Off the beaten path sounds good. Thanks Channing. Going to start with Pressfield.

      2. 1

        Have started. Reading accompanied with Derek Sivers Notes on The War of Art

    2. 1

      Literally ordered these a couple of weeks ago, looking forward to diving in.

    3. 1

      Cheers Manuel. I read Deep Work. Enjoyed it. Although it was 200 pages to long imo. Should probably re-read. And will investigate Digital Minimalism.

    4. 1

      I second this. Both are fantastic.

  3. 3

    Here's a weird/counterintuitive suggestion, but it's often worked for me.

    Set goals to do more. Launch another project. Make yourself more busy. Experiment with something crazy that requires a lot of work, on top your already need-to-get-done work. If it's something you're excited to work on, then even better. It can also be something not work related like training for a marathon.

    When I do this, I magically can get my "regular" work done in a fraction of the time.

    You have to be careful with this method, but it can kick you in the butt and change your work habits for the better, forever. When your time is constrained, you work much better.

    1. 1

      Hahahah! Cheers Pat. Certainly a unique something no one else suggested. I get the weird logic.

  4. 2

    Harry, have you considered a co-working space? I work from cafes/coffee shops too... it's strange, but it's different just having people around you who are (all) actually working, vs folks sitting around chatting, or reading a book, or just having an empty cafe...

    Also, I'm sure you're aware of them - apps that block stuff when you tell them to. e.g. ColdTurkey

  5. 2

    I use a combination of white noise and pomodoro sessions. As a chronic procrastinator, this has changed my life 🤯

  6. 2

    Hey Harry! I've gone through times like this as well. I've found that it normally means I need a break. A few days of not pushing so hard. Take time to do other things I enjoy - exercise, cook, play video games. Usually, it's just the mental barrier of feeling like I'm not doing enough that is getting me down. Letting go of that really helps.

    Another thing you could try is to restructure your work so you hear how what you're doing is helping people. Perhaps, instead of just doing case studies of marketing examples that have worked - find someone who is struggling and help them apply some changes based on your knowledge and writing, track changes, and write about that. Feeling like having a direct impact on someone is extremely motivating for me.

    Cheers!

    1. 2

      Cheers Ryan - Some great advice here. Thinking of getting a podcast moving to break up the writing.

      1. 1

        Right on! Would listen

  7. 2

    I really enjoyed Rosie's post about being intentional about research/growth activities that I think can apply to other types of activities, too. TL;DR Have a purpose before doing something https://www.indiehackers.com/post/being-intentional-with-your-research-and-growth-activities-fb1935fe47?utm_campaign=digest-daily&utm_medium=email&utm_source=indie-hackers-emails

    I agree that taking some time to jot down goals like others have mentioned is probably the best thing to do. Basically the same thing as being intentional with activities.

    1. 1

      Great share Bryce. @rosiesherry's post resonated. Sums up my problem exactly.

      I check Twitter, I check Indie Hackers, and then I'm in a whirlpool of interesting stuff. But ultimately is it the stuff I should be looking at!

      Living with intention is where it's at. Thank you both

    2. 1

      😊 I appreciate the mention. One of my focuses this year is on writing more, I was meant to do that last year, but as I've learned, things always take longer than I expect.

      1. 1

        Would love to know what strategies you use to write more. I've got that as one of my goals as well 👍

  8. 2

    Something that works for me. No phone or computer after 12am. And committing to a minimum number of Pomodoros each day.

    This creates a 'squeeze' effect that discourages bullshitting during the day. You have a minimum but you also have a cut off time so you can't simply work longer if you get distracted.

    Sidenote: I set goals for each Pomodoro. The alarm acts as a hook to make me refocus if I get distracted.

    1. 1

      Cheers Dru - And good to hear from you. Never really done Pomodoro's. Will give it a shot. No phones till 5pm worked well today

      1. 2

        That's great to hear.

        Recently wrote something up and gave you a shout-out. (#48)

        100 Rules

        1. 2

          Love this. Going to go through them all properly later on.

          Maybe turn this into a text post and share on r/motivation/stoicism/whatever ? Think they might like it

          1. 1

            Awesome idea. Thanks for checking it out

            1. 2

              Lots of luck involved. But it's worth a shot. And link back to yourself / website at the end.

  9. 2

    It's all about self-discipline... There is no app, workaround, or hack for it, like building your body to be strong you must build your mind to remain focused, refusing to get distracted, and it takes work to achieve. Start small, celebrate the wins, and track the loses closely. I'm sure there are some books that go into detail about building habits as well.

  10. 1

    I take a walk and go out of my way to buy coffee 15 mins away almost everyday. I do it halfway through my day for a very specific reason. After working 4 plus hours, my brain is a mush. I need a walk to clear my mind. And I usually have my best ideas when walking. The walk does wonders. By the time I get back, I have cleared my mind and caffeinated enough to work another 4 plus hours.

  11. 1

    Hey @harrydry,

    first of all… phone in airplane mode is great!

    Second… you work on your own schedule. You decide when to start working and when to stop.

    So, my best tips would be:

    1. Give yourself permission to stop working at your preferred hour (e.g. 5pm), and call it a day.

    2. Let a countdown run on your phone set to 9 hours. After 9 hours you abandon the computer. Although I would argue that doing 9 hours of deep work is pretty heroic act. If you can do it, chapeaux! As a refresher, I found this interview with Cal Newport insightful: https://www.blinkist.com/magazine/posts/cal-newport-on-deep-work-the-key-to-unlocking-your-productivity-potential

    3. Whenever you realize that you get bored or distracted and you start wasting time on bullshit (although your actual plan was to write a new article) log that. Meaning:

    a) either let the distraction happen until it bleeds out (and make a note with a timestamp when the distraction started). Yes, it’s not nice that you wasted hours of your day and energy. But it’s even worse if you don’t know how many hours it were and what you did in these hours. So, logging your activity (even manually) can work wonders.

    or b) write down on a whiteboard (or piece of paper) the thing you had in mind that wanted to distract you. A community friend of mine calls this the „Whiteboard Trick” (see: https://seanwes.com/tv/062-get-more-done-in-a-day/)

    1. Structure your day: define the one most important thing (MIT) you want to get done for the next day. When that’s done, you’re free to stop working or you decide to work on your secondary item.
  12. 1

    Take a few days off. Productivity compounds, and investing time into improving your energy and productivity pays off exponentially

    On your first day back, try a new methodology for setting goals and managing your time. Try to offload the mental overhead of figuring out what to work on to a productivity system. You can try whatever you want. A simple one is based on these two videos from YC startup school:

    Basically pick a primary metric to track each week, either rev or user growth, and a goal for that metric: x% weekly growth

    At the beginning of the week, brainstorm all things you can do to meet that goal. Just write them down, dont analyze them or do them.

    Then rank them according to likely impact: "high" = high likelihood that this task can achieve your goal, "medium" = medium probability, "low" = low probability

    Then rank them according to how complex they are: "hard" = will take a week or more, "medium" = will take 1-2 days, "easy" = takes less than a day

    Rank tasks according to impact and complexity. Then allocate each task to a slot on your calendar. Give yourself an hour or two of cushion per day to wrap up tasks. Break up your day into whatever chunks work for you (ie pomodoro method, etc). Include time for mental health and physical health.

    Stick to the calendar, but dont beat yourself up if you arent perfect. Just focus on doing better the next day.

    1. 1

      this was useful - thank for for such detail

  13. 1

    I (randomly?) got shown this as I logged into YouTube today, it made me think of you @harrydry ❤️

    I watched it as I did a workout. I love killing two birds with one stone :)

    1. 1

      got it saved for the next time im working out. thank youu!

  14. 1

    I use leechblock.to to prevent myself from visiting sites during work hours. It has some options to block some sites completely and limit times for a group of sites.
    I block the sites that I automatically visited on opening the browser (theverge.com, recode.com, techcrunch.com), and I limit my time on hacker news to 10 minutes.

    I know some writers swear by Freedom App (https://freedom.to/). Specifically, Neil Strauss of Rolling Stone. His episode with Tim Ferriss (https://tim.blog/2014/06/24/neil-strauss/) has a lot of specifics about his productivity as a writer.

    Lastly, for me, I found that removing the suggested sites or articles to visits from the new tab decreased how I get distracted. For chrome, I used Blank New Tab (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/blank-new-tab-page/jaadjnlkjnhohljficgoddcjmndjfdmi?hl=en). I use Firefox, and it's easy to remove all suggestion from the new tab page.

    I hope this helps.

    edit: A book worth reading is Deep Work, by Cal Newport (https://www.calnewport.com/books/deep-work/). He helped me frame why it was important to increase my capability to focus.

  15. 1

    I ended up blocking YouTube and bunch of news sites on chrome via some extension. That helped.

    1. 1

      This helps a lot. Also, I use an add on called Distraction Free YouTube (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/df-youtube/).

  16. 1

    After reading Atomic Habits, and subscribing to his newsletter, I had a much better mental framework for how I wanted to be. When I found Habitica, I immediately started using it as my system of record. I'm a big-time gamer, so the RPG elements associated with it are very helpful for me. I know if I'm not getting things done when I said I would, my character will lose health and I hate losing health!

    It's super simple and works for me, but your mileage may vary.

  17. 1

    I used to have the same problem, I would add extensions that block specific websites only to find a way to uninstall it after a few hours.

    If you want something that isn't at all easy to uninstall, try ColdTurkey (www.getcoldturkey.com)

    I am not affiliated with this service in any way, just so you know

  18. 1

    YouTube RabbitHole Plugin - Thanks me later.

    1. 1

      Thank you

  19. 1

    Hi Harry,

    Something like blocking Telegram + Twitter + YouTube etc ... between certain hours might be the best option.

    That's exactly what I built deprocrastination extension for.

    I have distracting sites blocked until noon, then from 12.20-4PM, and from 4.20-8PM (using the Focus Zones feature). After 8 PM, I can do whatever I want.

    This helped me get into a productive rhythm and cut down from checking distracting sites 100-200x a day to about 30x day.

    If you create an account, I'll give you a free month of PRO. Cheers!

    1. 2

      Cheers Vita - It's looks like a cool tool. I've taken the advice from the group and worked on my mental focus. Journling and such, but will be sure to recommend yours to folk!

      1. 1

        Awesome!And if you want to try the extension, you can set it up in less than 60s and without registration. Cheers!

  20. 1

    I agree with Jay, this sounds like a goal setting problem. You should have clear goals that you are trying to accomplish every month, and then break them down to daily goals. Once you have daily goals set, you can start time boxing them.

    For instance I always get all my emails, Indie Hackers, and Social Media knocked out right away in the morning. I try to only spend 20-30 minutes on this. Then I carve out 4-5 hours for freelancing, finally spend the remainder of the day on my businesses. Having a rigid schedule is how I'm able to manage everything.

    Protect your time! It's your most valuable asset.

  21. 1

    Don't open social media when you're working (easier said than done though)

    Think about : "What should I prioritise to most move my business forward?" checking social media, or writing an article?

    I usually have my days spread in two/three parts:

    • Morning: Projects that require a lot of mental energy / creativity such as writing, project management, etc.
    • Afternoon: Lunch then go to the gym
    • End of afternoon: Revenue generation / marketing. That's when I am a bit more distracted and when I usually check social media :)

    So I am super focused for 4-5 hours then work another 2-3 on marketing/rev generation stuff. Sometimes if I am really into a project I'll work more during the evenings, or less on certain days depending on the work.

    Then take time off when you feel necessary (go to nature, museums, whatever that inspires you) to recalibrate your goals. It's really important!

    You're doing well as far as I can see and it's ok to have moments where you feel you're not progressing - that just means you care about your self improvement!

    Do it for a few days until it becomes an habit :)

    1. 1

      I like the segmentation. Thank you

  22. 1

    For me I just really want to work on my own business so bad that I don't want to waste time on other stuff that does not help me progress with my life.
    Everyone is dying it is just a matter of time, so make use of your time effectively and make it counts.
    Yeah, for the its the idea of dying that I don't want to waste no time on slacking around, unless it is a very much needed rest to avoid burn-out.

  23. 1

    I find this simple free app very useful pomelloapp.com I don't turn my computer on unless I have a Trello card ready to go (I add them using the mobile app when I'm out and about) and I have this pomodoro timer running the whole time my computer is on. just knowing what I'm working on helps a lot.

    take a look at focusmate.com too. it's pretty easy to keep focusing when someone is looking at you :)

  24. 1

    i would advise a few things -- it's all going to be about the "small" little practices that you bring into your working routines.

    Flow State Hack:
    When you go to work, always make sure you (1) set a timer (i like 50 or 90 min) or deadline for the task (2) before you begin work, spend 1 - 5 min journaling about why this task is important. try to make the outcome as emotionally driven as possible. write about success and what it means to yourself, your friends, your family, etc. (3) Honor the timer. When it goes off, you're done. This trains your mind to really focus on tasks since there is an impending deadline. It will be hard for you to do this, but it's worth it.

    Don't Go It Alone:
    Join a mastermind or accountability group. It's important that you realize everyone else is struggling with this type of thing, and when you help people with these challenges, you get better too. Relationships are everything in life. I run several masterminds, and would be happy to invite you in, if it's a good fit. If you don't go the mastermind route, find an accountability partner or two and schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings. Happy to help with this too if you need ideas for structuring the calls.

    Good luck!!!

  25. 1

    I know one- you give a lot of cash to your friend. You together create of 10 task list for you with certain deadlines and he pays back 10% when you finish them. If not, money stays with him. That’s it! Hope it helps

  26. 1

    That's a fundamental problem for me when doing creative work. Writing means researching, researching means going wandering around the internet and so on - this all combined makes for a perfect distractions environment. Unfortunately, I haven't found the solution yet.

    On the other hand, one thing I am going to adopt is the idea of checking my email inbox (probably may apply to telegram, slack etc.) only twice a day.

    Sometimes it's just you creating a distraction environment by accident - My story:
    I caught myself in a weird cycle of checking my inbox on mobile all the time just because I switched the email notifications off - then, I noticed that I keep checking it compulsively because I hope to find something new. It's precisely the same mechanism as described in "Hooked", and I created it for myself 😂
    It took me months to notice it, though.

    I'm sure it has been shared here over a million times, but this document lays a pretty solid foundation for being a productive CEO, and it applies to solo entrepreneurs as well.
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZJZbv4J6FZ8Dnb0JuMhJxTnwl-dwqx5xl0s65DE3wO8/preview

    1. 1

      Yep, the writing researching cycle is hard for me to escape. Happens all the time.
      Thanks for the doc - Dawid

  27. 1

    You need to have time constraints to be really productive. Try working at your computer only in the mornings! Goal: get things done by 1pm. Keep the afternoons for hobbies and sport.

  28. 1

    I’m a distracted person as well, I struggled and still
    Some times struggle with it. But since I started to meditate every morning for 15-20 minutes, it helped me a lot to be more productive and also to be more aware of negative thoughts, which then generates frustration and doubt. It helps me to detect it earlier and remain my focus on the work. Even if I can’t always avoid it, I notice progress which keeps me motivated to do my daily meditation.

    Methods like Pomodore are also very helpful. But as already mentioned, the planning of your work is key as well. If you don’t know why you are doing what you do, everything is more difficult.

    1. 1

      And yes, building habits: Atomic Habits