The easy option is almost always the default and this is a bad thing in many cases. The easy choice is to not have to run to another room to answer a phone call, or text message. The easy choice is to keep your phone close at hand all day.
What Are Clients Paying For?
The single skill that will live for both freelancers and people in a traditional job is the skill of making good decisions. Your clients are paying for your best thoughts. They’re paying for your full attention for the duration of your time on their project.
If you’re billing hourly, and you are allowing distractions in your office, then you’re literally cheating your clients. Your clients are paying for your best effort. They’re not paying for 5 minutes of 100% focus in the midst of 55 minutes of distraction.
Even if you’re not billing hourly and you’ve jumped on the “value based pricing” bandwagon, you’re short changing your customers. They’re paying for your fresh brain focused on their problems. They’re paying for your full mental faculties pointed towards their issues.
The only way you can give them this high powered valuable decision making is if you’re focused only on their problems.
If you’re distracted, they’re not getting your best work. In a way, you’re choosing to give them less than your best.
But I Don’t Have Clients
The same idea holds true if you don’t have “clients”. When I was working on writing the first draft of The Art of Focus giving anything less than my full attention to my work meant that I was making extra work for myself later.
Extra work in the form of more edits. Extra work as I had to revise a whole chapter that I knew I kind of phoned in as distractions were around me. Extra work as I had to spend so much more time making sure my thoughts were coherent.
I allowed myself to have lower quality thoughts because I wasn’t fully focused on the work in front of me.
This type of reasoning is poison for your business. If you’re not willing to give your best self to your brainstorming sessions and business development time, then you’re running a slowly sinking ship.
Without your best self applied to your own work you won’t notice when the industry changes. You’ll stick to the stuff that has “worked” and one day you’ll look up to find that you have no clients. You’re probably even going to wonder why you have no clients because you didn’t pay enough attention to the changes going on in your industry.
Put Some Thought in to Designing Your Environment
If you’re ready to get focused with your work, then it’s time to make some decisions about what you allow around you.
Take the phone and put it out of the office. My favourite place is the drawer downstairs. My phone is not even near where it can get my attention. It’s not sitting there beside me sucking up some small portion of my attention that someone else is paying for. My brain expends no effort waiting for my phone to have something for me to look at.
Sometimes you will need your phone at close hand. I need it closer to my than a drawer downstairs when my wife is out with the kids. It doesn’t have to be screaming for my attention on my desk though.
Find a spot just outside your office if you can, and put your phone there. In my house directly across from my office door there is a low wall. This is where my phone ends up.
When I rented an office my phone would get plugged in on the table that held my coffee supplies. It was around if I needed it, but was never within sight so it couldn’t hold my attention.
You can also create rules about your phone. I work to not put my phone in my pocket if there is any other spot that it can go. Sometimes that’s the door of the car. Sometimes that’s a pocket on my backpack. Sometimes that’s in the drawer or on top of the fridge.
Yes it’s going to feel odd not to have that device accessible right away in your pocket, but you’ll get over it. Just like you trained your brain to expect a phone in your pocket, you’ll have to train your brain to not reach for your pocket in a moment of boredom.
The biggest change I made in my environment was going almost entirely iOS. Many weeks I don’t even turn on my computer until Friday when video calls are so much better from a computer.
The benefit if iOS is that it only allows a single focus. At most you can have two applications on the screen at the same time. In practice, this means I don’t end up cycling through distractions as I look for anything easier than the work I need to do.
Who are you cheating?
There are only a few people you can be cheating. You could be cheating yourself out of your best thoughts. You could be cheating clients out of your valuable brain applied to their problem.
Either of those options is terrible, but there is a good set of things to cheat out of your attention.
By removing your devices from your workspace you can start cheating Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other distractions out of your best time. Start cheating these services this week.
Start cheating your phone out of your best attention and turn it back in to the tool that it’s meant to be. You don’t put a hammer on your desk just in case something needs hammering.
So why do you keep your phone around just in case something comes up?
PS: Part II of The Art of Focus is all about taking control of your time so that you can do the work that matters to you. Make sure you get on the email list to get The Art of Focus FREE when it comes out.
Photo by: judy-van-der-velden