This is the age of distraction and Leo Babauta, who blogs at the immensely popular Zen Habits site, is here to help. His new book Focus is all about how to have more productive time by trading quantity of engagement for quality, distraction for devotion.
I started reading Focus at Starbucks while waiting for my son's activity to end. It was really hard. Why? As I was reading about about unplugging and concentrating on one thing at a time, I had two work emails buzz on my Blackberry in the course of 20 minutes - at 7:45 at night! - and I was dying to check the score of the Monday Night Football game. Yeah, Leo has a point.
The two things I remember from my first read of Focus are "single tasking" and the "most important tasks" list.
Single-Tasking. Basically, your brain isn't meant to multi-task. Switching gears slows you down, which probably doesn't surprise you. But Babauta clearly paints the other sacrifice of multi-tasking: you aren't creating. Your best ideas never come out. So clear your workspace, close all of your programs except one app, if it's what you need to complete your task. Frankly, as a recovering multi-tasker, this will take practice.
Most Important Tasks (MITs). Babauta is a big fan of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD), but he departs in two important ways. One is that he advises regaining control (cleaning your office, basically) in 15 minute increments, rather than the up to two-day capture GTD recommends. This will help you get going. But Leo also takes issue with the GTD principle that it's not about prioritizing tasks. Instead, Leo recommends identifying three Most Important Tasks at the beginning of each day, so that you're not just managing workflow, but you're doing what matters most, and creating uninterrupted time to focus on completing your MITs. Makes sense to me.
What I like most about Focus is that it's written by a guy who owes his career to on-line work. His blog has been featured in Time magazine and allowed him to quit his day job. This isn't your grandma telling you to put down the new fangled technology, he gets it. So he has credibility telling you, yeah, put it down (for a while, anyway).
Focus is available as a free download in PDF format. For nine bucks, I opted for the Kindle format, mostly because I listen to books on my Kindle while commuting (hope that isn't considered multi-tasking!), but also to get some bonus chapters by other authors. There's a full-price option, too, with tons of bonus content you can read about on Leo's website.
I recommend that you read the breezy Focus, as a simpler, more present life can't hurt your efforts to eat healthier. On Friday, I'll further explore the connection between a decluttered life and healthy weight.