Hocus focus

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You've currently got 27 open browser tabs. Your phone is face-up, and three new text notifications have popped up in the last couple of minutes. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are a nanosecond away. And there are people - actual real-life humans - with the audacity to want to speak with you in person at your desk every 15 or 30 minutes.

We're getting bombarded with information, and have been for years now. So much so that the above scenario seems normal. What's this doing to our ability to concentrate or get anything done?

We've found two ways to help the situation, at least a little. One of the, paradoxically, uses technology, while the other involves short bursts of forced focus. 

Brain.fm is one that will help you get dialled in to your work. It actually works, at least in the limited time we've tried it (the beach setting is being used as we speak). It's billed as an "AI music composer" aimed at helping you work, relax, or sleep. We discovered it while being unable to do all three of those things, and listened to the insane human performance tester/optimizer Ben Greenfield   .

The other is a bit of a writer's trick - the Pomodoro technique. This one requires more self-discipline, but - good news - it has built-in recess moments for planned slacking off. Set a timer or a watch for 25 minutes, work only one one task for that duration, and then when the chime sounds, take 5 minutes to stretch, surf, or snack, before hitting another 25 minutes of focus. Works like a charm and an hour or four will pass in no time - with magical results.