Hyper Focused → Hyper Productive

April 28, 2020

Matt Thompson

Photo by Agence Olloweb on Unsplash

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been ramping up on Rails and read multiple articles pertaining to Elixir, Phoenix 1.5, and LiveView. I was excited, passionate, renewed even. Ready to dive into a new build and write a series of content. Except for some reason I couldn’t do it. While I tried, I found myself in a new state of burnout. The passion I had for the topic just could not overturn the fact that I was exhausted and tired of staring at a screen. While I will eventually **dive into Phoenix 1.5 and write a short series, today I wanted to address the other.

It may be the ADHD brain stuck in quarantine, but lately, I’ve noticed I can adventure from SUPER EXCITED about a topic to this rare new form of burnout. I’ve been working remotely for years now and this is the first time I am truly struggling. It’s more than exhaustion this time, my passion for the subject suddenly dies, and I’m not alone. Managers, Co-workers, and colleagues are all finding themselves in a funk. We are all on edge, trying to be our best in an environment that is less than ideal. We are slowly recognizing that passion can only carry you so far and what we all thought was important, just isn’t these days.

Let’s be clear, the ability to hyper-focus on a task is NOT a bad thing. The issue here is that ALL tasks are hit with this same intensity.

Work is one part of my day, in some manner, I control. I used to start my day knowing the only distraction was going to be my stomach telling me it was time for lunch. I was focused, but not in the same way I am now. Now, I’m not sure what or when the next distraction will be. Tasks are all started with this hyper-focused intensity. Let’s be clear, the ability to hyper-focus on a task is NOT a bad thing. The issue here is that ALL tasks are hit with this same intensity. I may not be able to find toilet paper… but that question on slack, that Twitter thread, that PR, it was responded to, promptly. Even better, those 15-minute meetings, they now last at least an hour because we all are missing some form of human interaction.

We are all overcompensating in this new quarantine state and it’s exhausting. We try to take control of something, anything to feel human. Our routines were disrupted, and we are on a mission to regain control. At war, with this “new normal” trying to feel some sense of peace. For a lot of us, this is amplified by financial stress. You’ve either lost your job, know someone, or are in fear of the unknown. Tack on the new distractions as your partner, kids, pets are just always… there. It’s a disaster. A quote from my introvert wife sums it up: “Do you mind, I can hear you breathing!”

The beauty of remote work is that it can be, and should be asynchronous.

The beauty of remote work is that it can be, and should be asynchronous. ****Do I need to respond to that message? Yes. *Do I need to finish that task? *Yes. Can I realize I’ve been sitting in this same spot in my house for days and should take a walk first? YES! For some unknown reason, it’s like all the common sense habits of remote life were lost on me the second a global pandemic happened. If you are like me and just forgot how to function, here are some tips and reminders:

  • Give yourself multiple tasks for the day.
    This will encourage you and your brain to shift gears.
  • Write your tasks down and check them off.
    This will make you feel like you accomplished something by the end of the day.
  • Set some timers!
    If you are stubborn like me, set some reminders to switch gears, eat, and MOVE!
    /remind me everyday at 10am to walk
    /remind me everyday at 10:10 am -- No really get off your...
  • GO OUTSIDE!
  • Distractions. Embrace them!
    Play with the kid, have a hobby, watch that 20-minute episode, collect those turnips… Just make sure to remain disciplined and get the job done. Your brain actually enjoys the chaos and breaks.
  • Asynchronous communication!
    While distractions are great you don’t need to stare at Slack, Gmail, and your phone for 10 hours a day… you just don’t.

Conclusion

To my knowledge, the singularity has yet to be perfected. None of us are fully functional robots… yet. Humans are not meant to stay hyper-focused on a task 24/7. We are meant to adapt and survive. Keep the hyper-focused moments contained in the small bursts of energy they were intended for. It’s a tool in the belt, not a lifestyle. To truly be productive, introduce change, take a deep breath, and embrace chaos.

Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~ Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey

More about:

Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a lead engineer at Echobind, mentor, and content creator. Matt spends most of his time finding ways to improve the process for others. When he’s not building software, you’ll find him enjoying time with family, unplugging with a book, and woodworking.