People & Teamwork

One minor change to regain your focus

Probably many of you have experienced enormous benefits brought by focusing on a single task for a longer period of time and how ruinous effects constant distractions can have on your productivity. Perhaps you’ve even tried techniques like pomodoro in an attempt to leverage on this knowledge. If you’re like me and went down this path, you may have encountered another problem - notifications. Just a quick reply to a message that’s drawn your attention and your focus is gone. Just turn your notifications off - easy enough, right? But then, at some point, you’ll just hover over your mac dock in an attempt to switch an app and red circles next to your Slack, Messages and Mail icons draw your attention.

Get rid of notification badges

This is something that sounds so simple, but was a game changer for me. You may feel reluctant to do this at first. You know that there are people out there relying on you, that you need to communicate with. But if you feel it’s important to check your Mail or Slack, you’ll probably do it anyway when your pomodoro timer reaches zero. And in almost every case, everybody will be fine with waiting 25 mins for your answer (in a worst case scenario). Just go to

System Preferences -> Notifications and Focus -> Notifications -> Slack/Mail/whatever steals your attention -> uncheck Badge app icon

iOS has even a better solution for this problem. You can configure your focus modes to hide notification badges, which I recommend. Go to

Settings -> Focus -> { pick focus mode } -> Home Screen -> Hide Notification Badges

However, this feature is not currently on Mac and I choose no badges over badges all the time any day 😀

What else can you do?

Leverage shortcuts app

I personally use Shortcuts app to turn Do not disturb mode on for 25 minutes. Another thing this automation does, is hide Slack and Mail apps if they’re in foreground. I prefer to leave no chances that these apps will steal my focus when navigating around my workspace.

Scan your surroundings

Look around your work environment and think what else tends to draw your attention. Perhaps it’s another device that lights up for whatever reason or an item that you often feel invited to play with. My advice would be to put those aside. Maybe there’s a shelf next to you where you won’t be able to see them.

At the office

When you’re at the office, agree on some rules with your colleagues i.e. have an item, whose certain arrangement at your desk, tells everyone that you’re currently in your focus mode. It could also be headphones sitting on your head. You may also just ask everyone to ping you on Slack first and wait till your notifications checking window comes. Another thing that we’ve tried with my team in pre-pandemic times were focus hours. Each day we would have two hours of silence and absolute focus. Meeting would also not be allowed then. It worked great. From my experience - doing it during morning hours will work best for most people.

Remember about the objective

In your specific situation various potholes may emerge. Just remember about the power of deep work and that in most situations it’s totally fine for anyone to wait 25 minutes for your attention. Then you will always work something out 🙂