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Improve your mental focus (in a so distracted world)

People who want to achieve great things cannot be always dependent on external solicitation, being socially available is a great thing too, I would consider it a skill. But there is a balance to be found between social availability and concentration to get through the long and difficult tasks that sometimes have to be overcome.

During my journey as a developer, I had to find techniques to help me be efficient and precise in my work. I will share them with you.

Disclaimer : I will not talk about teamwork dynamics here and agile methodology. I just consider you have a task that you have to achieve individually, even if you can be helped by others.

The best time to do well is now

Wasted time

First of all, I would say the first obstacle to mental focus is procrastination. This is not a linear path, procrastination is part of the process and should be accepted. There are some habits you have to adopt to ensure it remains a positive part of the process.

Take notes, ideas come in a chaotic way, and sometimes there are great ideas you will be happy to retrieve, you can get a note-taking app (like Google Keep, SimpleNote or even Notion.

Be tolerant with yourself, there is nothing productive to blame yourself for, a simple helping thought is to tell yourself that the best time to do well is now.
Avoid being too perfectionist, learn to iterate from an imperfect product and then improve it, the important thing is to get to work.

Set a deadline, if you organize and prioritize your tasks (with a tool like Trello or Todoist for example), you can write down the tasks you have to do, select the one you need to do now and set a deadline to complete it. Even if there is no real need, you can impose it on yourself, it will boost you.

Train your mind

Focused man

Don’t blame tools or society, focus is before all a state of mind, the first thing you have to handle is your own ability to be totally committed to the goal you have set for yourself.

Is your mind clear ? Maybe there are ideas that worry you, you have to know why you do this task, and not another, meditation can help you to explore your mind, to train to focus only on your breathing, without any distraction. Really try to get this exercise right before going any further.

Be here now

You should be in tune with the present. Your mind should be able to be like a laser beam oriented on your task. This is an experience called “the flow” where you are completely invested in the task and it's leading you to well-being. Some tasks favor this such as reading, drawing, playing music or even video games.

You can use visualization techniques : just think about all the tasks you have to do, think about how it will feel and how it will benefit you. It will be an opportunity to write down these smaller steps which will be easier to do one by one.

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Get healthy habits

Luckily you're not just a calculating machine, find the activities you like to do that are not on the desktop, you should move one way or another : running, biking, hiking, collective sports, dancing, whatever works for you, even just walking regularly is a very good way to take care of your health. You have to find your reward system to keep balance and stay motivated.


It will also encourage you to take care of your alimentation to be better at these activities.

When you come back to your desktop, you will feel so much better and that doesn't stop you from going out and having fun from time to time.

Circadian rhythm

If we look at the circadian rhythm, we see our body has a cycle every day that influences our energy to be alerted, coordinated or in need of sleep. We have to follow our dispositions, take regular breaks and set up concentration tunnels. Usually the focus level is at its best in the morning, where you are more alerted. But it may differ for some people, you have to find your own particularities.

Drinking enough and reasonable water, coffee or tea is also helpful.

One tip is to begin the task you want to do in the morning before all the others, it will become the most important thing in your mind for the rest of the day, it’s the “eat the frog” technique.

Optimize your workspace

Avoid distractions like notifications, annoyance of colleagues, learn to say no to immediate solicitations. On your smartphone you can configure each application to send you specific information (like DMs) and set silent mode. About the colleagues' solicitations, take the habit to differ your response, if it’s not useful it will be canceled by itself.

What was I doing ?

Try to have an environment that keeps quiet, noiseless and with constant brightness.

Free yourself from FOMO, learn to make asynchronous discussions on your company’s chat, you will respond when you have the time, you can define 2 or 3 times in the day.

This implies that you must accept that other people work in the same way and do not respond immediately, put aside the tasks "wait for another person".

Batman call

If you work on critical projects, set privileged channels where you will pay more attention (it also works for the people you care about, like close friends or family).

Clean your desktop, physically and virtually, practice the inbox zero techniques, it will help you to be up to date and willing.

Clean desktop

Each day, define a clear sequential planning of your different activities and meetings, avoid multitasking as much as possible, the brain is better to do each activity one by one, and learn to move quickly from one activity to another.
You must ensure that the defined tasks are carried out at the end of the day.

You can keep a quiet environment or listen to music that will help you stay focused.

If you work alone in a remote office and you have difficulties concentrating, it may be a good idea to go to a quiet bar with some people around or to a library. Contrary to what you might think, it will help you.

Optimize your processes

Learn to make accurate estimates, you can take it like a game. You need to know how long it will take, even if you've never done it before. So you can define a clear roadmap for the project and you can set a timebox for the task you are doing today.


Everyone knows it's not precise, you will have more or less uncertainty which you can also estimate and it will likely be possible to correct things through transparent and reasoned communication. Nobody likes to waste their time, neither you nor your company. If you do this exercise regularly you will be strong and reassuring for everyone.

It will also boost you, if you detect quickly that you are late on the planning, you can speed up.

Be vigilant on this point for a new mission, if you can't establish clear communication, that's a problem you need to address from the start.

Find patterns that work and use them, if you have a task you can decompose and you have to repeat it, the brain is better to make each step by group, than one task sequentially.

If you regularly have a task with the same sequences, you can identify them to frame the activity and therefore save time and rigor.


Don't forget the power of habits, for example if you have a daily meeting always at the same time, your brain will adapt to be ready for that meeting every day.

Always start with what is easiest and fastest and save complicated or blocking tasks for the end.
If you have a lot of tasks to do, group the tasks that are quick and easy to do, the “quick-wins”, and do a session to eliminate them all.


Be selective in the tasks you put in your todo list and clean up regularly.

Adopt some form of discipline, make efforts and be tolerant of yourself.
As soon as you realize that your mind has wandered to scroll through Instagram stories, or whatever, benevolently return to the assigned task, thinking that once the task is done, everything else will become possible again. It's completely normal, our mind is constantly challenged by the war of attention practiced in marketing.


Taking a simple sheet of paper to focus on a subject can be a good trick, there are no notifications or multiple tabs on it.
Keep up the pace, in any case if you can't do it, it's okay, put this task on hold, do the rest and come back to it.

Take breaks from time to time, get into the habit of periods of concentration then relaxation to be effective. The Pomodoro technique can help, but the main thing is to organize yourself to set up tunnels of concentration and to adapt to the daily context.

If you are sure of doing it, talk about your project to a few other people, the principle of consistency will go in your direction.

Never get stuck, take some time to look for yourself, but if you notice a big blockage, ask for help from the person closest to you who is most likely to be able to help you.

Common goal

If you are faced with a complex problem and you want to avoid disturbing your colleagues, there is the rubber duck trick, which consists of re-explaining the problem from start to finish, to an imaginary colleague, which usually comes down to solving the problem by itself.

It is also a smart move to stop the evening of a blockage and come back the next morning, the brain works during the night and the solution often appears.

What you focus on expands

Mastering your concentration will help you accomplish the big tasks you set for yourself.

The points to be worked on are physical and mental hygiene, the establishment of a good working environment and the adoption of efficient processes, this is the way to hold out over time.

Focus is choosing one activity among others, just make sure it's what you want for your life and stay open to what's around you, it's all about balance.

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