Staying focussed when tired


I must be friggin tired. It’s only 9:27 and I’ve already have 3 occasions where I thought of something that I could do, went to do it, and then struggled to recall just what I was trying to achieve.

The forgetfulness of what the task that I’m currently on is made worse by the fact that I’m working on the computer, and even worse in a browser on the internets.

In modern day life there are only so many things, physical things, that can capture your attention.

Imagine you are in your living room. There’s a bookshelf off to the right, in front of you the television is playing an ad in the middle of Quantum Leap where Sam has come back as lady (Oh’ Boy!). In between you and the television is a coffee table with a couple of design magazines, a few bank statements and the Men’s Fitness magazine you keep buying to lose that fat yet do nothing more than flick through the pages to read the work outs… and then check out the gadgets section.

There’s probably a few other things around the room, but the point is that your attention can only wander to a few things. Lets say the ad is about banking and it switches your attention to the statements on the coffee table. “I must file those” you think to yourself. Then the next ad comes on about Cravendale milk and you temporarily lose your train of thought. Scanning the room you only have 10-15 things that could lead you away from the bank statements. As you glance across them you remember that the previous ad was about banking and your on track again.

This is not how the computer works.

This is not how the browser works.

This is not how the internet works.

At the moment as I’m typing this (in distraction free mode with notifications muted) I know that behind this wall of peaceful white are 24 tabs open in my chrome browser. Twitter, Adium, Skype, Hipchat, Omnifocus, and iMessage are all running in the background as well. Oh yeah, those 24 tabs…. that’s in one of the chrome windows. Theres 3 other chrome windows open with a similar number still open from the stuff I was doing earlier.

Within those tabs is Facebook, a design forum, two unfinished you tube videos (one funny, one a tutorial about setting up grafana for front end performance). In another two tabs are two grafana dashboards that are almost finished, and across the others are Linked In, two WordPress Dashboards, a shopify developer dashboard and a client dashboard.

Now when I get distracted via a mention on a tweet I usually read it right away. While I’m there I have a quick scan through my twitter timeline and inevitably find a couple of links that people have shared. One of the links is to a new responsive website which I want to check out and feature in the examples section, and another link is to an article about performance. I open both a start reading the performance article and half way through they talk about a product that is made specifically for working on responsive sites…. “That’ll be good for the newsletter” I think, “maybe they might like to sponsor an edition too”. I open up the tool and have a quick look before deciding I like it. I head to their contact page to find an email address and open up another tab with Gmail (which I’m sure is open somewhere else… but chance are i’m half way through reading an email and don’t want to lose my place). I hit compose and paste the email address in just before a contact form comes through with someone asking about sponsorship. That looks interesting. Rather than email a possible I decide to review the probable opportunity. I read their thoughts and open their site to check out what they offer and… ohhhh, it’s a responsive images hosted solution. That actually reminds me that there was another similar solution I’d seen last week… perhaps I should get a list of them together a right a post about the different options. I could also see if the other one would like to do some advertising later in the year as well.

“Wait…. what was I doing again? It was something in one of these tabs. Ahhhh let me see… let me see….”

OmniFocus pops up to alert me that I’m supposed to get back to a DM on twitter. I head back to twitter to do the DM, but there’s another one there and some more mentions.


These are all the distractions you have just within a browser window…. never mind hipchat, adium, messages, skype etc coming through as well.

It’s incredibly hard to stay focussed when you are tired, but the best way I find to overcome this is choose 8 things to do today.

– 1 Major thing (will take 2 hours)
– 2 Minor things (will take 30-35 mintues)
– 5 Small things (5-15 minutes each)

I’m off to create my list.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *