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Controlled by the timer

Timer de Cozinha em forma de Tomate. mlpiexoto/FlickrI’m currently using a Pomodoro technique-based timer app on the laptop called Focus Booster as part of my a daily ritual.

It has nothing to do with precisely following the popular time management method.

It has everything to do with establishing a zone from which I cannot be disturbed.

“Look, a squirrel!”

I am easily distracted, meaning that despite the joy and warmth from company I feel when perched in my “usual” locations at local independently owned coffee houses, the level of productivity is probably best when I’m tucked away in a spot that no one knows to look for me. I also know that while multi-tasking can be worn as a badge of honor by some, it’s a badge of chaos for me.

I can accomplish a great deal of tasks more if I can focus on them one at a time. The problem many face is the ability to do just that as our time and attention can be pulled in many different directions at once.

I’ve spent most of the first two months of 2011 accepting the fact that I work best from a massive to-do list, gaining joy from being able to cross items off after completion.

The weird thing is that I’ve long considered time an enemy.

If I end up spending the day at the house (which has become the norm recently), I realize it’s easier to split my time between three different rooms, using the timer to keep me “moving” from one task to the next.

I found myself in a conversation with a fellow digital nomad who explained the significance of that act best. If I move from place to place throughout the day completing one specific task or handling a set of tedious items in one sitting and then move on, I’m able to truly measure it as an accomplishment.

It’s weird to think of building in time to focus on being distracted as part of a time management plan, but it seems to be working so far. This will be especially helpful as I get to add a couple more locations to the rotation as the warm weather invades the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Warm weather distractions

One of the great things about old houses are their grand front porches. Despite all of the years living in the Southeastern United States, it’s only been in the last two years that I’ve truly been able to take advantage of the joys of having constant access to one. My view is a little different than most as I get a chance to enjoy seeing Red Mountain in the distance while having the white noise of Interstate 20/59 as it approaches Malfunction Junction pass below.

Birmingham’s Railroad Park also provides a pretty nice outdoor office to those digital nomads willing to try it out. Free WiFi access (especially when your service at home has been suspect in recent days) is a nice option to have as is an instant supply of inspiration for writing.

Known distractions for me need another distraction in place to keep them under control. Enter the soothing ticking sound from Focus Booster and the reminder to get up from where I’m sitting to reconnect with the world – albeit for short periods of time – throughout the course of the day. It’s like musical chairs for my brain. It gives me the chance to jump from task to task and not necessarily get tired of it (or drawn away from it).

For you it may be the call of the beach or the need to get that cup of coffee at the coffee house, but there’s probably something that doesn’t quite let you give your projects the attention they deserve.

I know there are plenty of posts out there talking about the joys of single-tasking and tools for focusing, but I’d love to hear what some of you are using (and thinking) about the need to be doing everything at once…

Photo: Timer de Cozinha em forma de Tomate. mlpiexoto/Flickr

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