Skip to content
Swizec Teller - a geek with a hatswizec.com

The Focus app reduced my decision fatigue

Focused, hard work is the real key to success.

For the past few months I've been having more and more trouble focusing. Run vagrant up, browse Imgur for 2 minutes. Hit Cmd+R, read Twitter for 3 minutes. Compile assets, scroll up and down Facebook for 1 minute. Finish a pomodoro, read Hacker News for 10 minutes.

It was bad.

A normal Pomodoro cycle is supposed to follow 25 minutes of intense focus with 5 minutes of rest. Four times. After 1 hour and 55 minutes of work, you take a longer break. Away from the computer if possible.

My five minute breaks were always about farting around the internet. The longer breaks I would spend doing chores or more farting around the internet.

The system has been working great since I started using it in 2011. But for the last few months ... not so much.

Interneting during a Pomodoro because "But it takes so long to load, wah". No it doesn't, you're just an idiot, Swizec. A 30 second load time is rough, but you can wait it out. Yes it feels like a waste of time, yes it's annoying, yes having good and fast automated tests would be better. No, you can wait it out.

Better to wait than to spend five minutes on Imgur every time you have to look at a loading bar for 30 seconds.

Sure, I still got all my work done. In a reasonable time even. But that shit was not up to my standards.

Worse still, it was stressing me out because I always felt like I was running out of time, and created a huge mind-drain in terms of decision fatigue.

I'm not sure why I was doing this. Maybe I was tired, perhaps I had too much on my mind, or maybe I just didn't like what I was working on all that much, probably I was addicted to random rewards

All of the above.

But! I have found a solution! The Focus app.

The Focus app does just what you'd imagine - make sure you focus. You turn it on and, poof, focused. At least in theory.

In practice it just blocks all those addicting websites so you don't have to think about it. Blocks Twitter, blocks Facebook, blocks Hacker News, blocks many popular blog platforms.

Anything you might use to waste time is gone. Turned into an inspirational quote that gently reminds you that you're supposed to be working. After 25 minutes, it all comes back.

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

This ties nicely into Pomodoro. The moment my timer goes bing, my browser starts loading all those tabs that were blocked.

Magic.

After a month, I feel much better. I don't know if I'm more creative or more productive, but I do feel less tired. No option to visit addictive websites, no drain on the decision pool. Perfect :)

John Cleese on Creativity gives another take on why this is so important. He explains that to be creative you not only need a distraction-free environment, you need a distraction-free mind.

Now creativity can happen, because play is possible when we are separate from everyday life.

So, you've arranged to take no calls, you've closed your door, you've sat down somewhere comfortable, take a couple of deep breaths and if you're anything like me, after you've pondered some problem that you want to turn into an opportunity for about 90 seconds, you find yourself thinking "Oh I forgot I've got to call Jim… oh, and I must tell Tina that I need the report

/../

Because, as we all know, it's easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking.

And it's also easier to do little things we know we can do, than to start on big things that we're not so sure about.

/../

So when I say create an oasis of quiet know that when you have, your mind will pretty soon start racing again. But you're not going to take that very seriously, you just sit there (for a bit) tolerating the racing and the slight anxiety that comes with that, and after a time your mind will quiet down again.

That is what Focus helps you with. It forces you to sit there and tolerate the anxiety while you wait for the mind to quiet down.

10% less tweets than the month before
10% less tweets than the month before

Since I started using Focus, I've written 10% less tweets. Well worth the \\\$20 investment.

Did you enjoy this article?

Published on May 26th, 2015 in creativity, focus, John Cleese, Personal

Learned something new?
Want to become a high value JavaScript expert?

Here's how it works 👇

Leave your email and I'll send you an Interactive Modern JavaScript Cheatsheet 📖right away. After that you'll get thoughtfully written emails every week about React, JavaScript, and your career. Lessons learned over my 20 years in the industry working with companies ranging from tiny startups to Fortune5 behemoths.

Start with an interactive cheatsheet 📖

Then get thoughtful letters 💌 on mindsets, tactics, and technical skills for your career.

"Man, love your simple writing! Yours is the only email I open from marketers and only blog that I give a fuck to read & scroll till the end. And wow always take away lessons with me. Inspiring! And very relatable. 👌"

~ Ashish Kumar

Join over 10,000 engineers just like you already improving their JS careers with my letters, workshops, courses, and talks. ✌️

Have a burning question that you think I can answer? I don't have all of the answers, but I have some! Hit me up on twitter or book a 30min ama for in-depth help.

Ready to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own?  Learn how to build scalable dataviz components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization

Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, modern backend for the frontend engineer.

Ready to learn how it all fits together and build a modern webapp from scratch? Learn how to launch a webapp and make your first 💰 on the side with ServerlessReact.Dev

Want to brush up on your modern JavaScript syntax? Check out my interactive cheatsheet: es6cheatsheet.com

By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you are ❤️