Staying Focused

For the past 6 months or so, I’ve had a really hard time focusing on work. I think it’s a mix of not being super excited about the projects that I’ve had combined with some burnout from running at an insane pace for more than a year. I’ll find there are times when I am focused and can dive in and be super productive. Then there are the times when I just can’t get my head in the game and will blow two hours with random web surfing and game playing. If you have any tips for getting in a work mindset when it’s the last thing you want to do, I’d love to hear them.

If I can’t focus, I’d take a walk outside. It does help ease your mind a bit, atleast for me.
Or write every thoughts or to-do list down on paper…

Actually, just doing things that have nothing to do with work… even it’s just a few minutes.

Or you just need a holiday? :grin:

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Pretend it’s a game.

If you are paid by progress, the object of the game is to make the most amount of money in the least amount of time.

If you are paid by the hour, the object of the game is to work efficiently and effectively enough to make the client feel like you are worth the pay for your time without making yourself feel like you are underpaid for your time.

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Also, remove anything distracting from your work environment. I know that’s easier said than done if you work from home.

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It’s been about the past two years for me. I don’t have a solution, but I can certainly empathize in a misery loves company sort of way. It’s as though my mind is continuously searching for any distraction it can find to take me away from the mind-numbing task in front of me.

The place I work could probably be described more as having more to do with public relations than advertising. Design is important, but is not the primary activity of the organization. No one in the upper management has a design or creative background and are, instead, mainly MBA types.

About two years ago, there was a change at the top away from a group of people who mostly “got it” to a group of people who do not understand the creative side of the business. They immediately started appointing other MBA graduates into key positions, and the environment has steadily become increasingly dysfunctional and toxic.

For example, the MBA graduate I report to, as far as I can tell, meets the clinical definition of a narcissist. She has no education, background or aptitude for design, photography, videography, writing, media relations, social media or, really, anything else my group does. Yet she believes she’s an expert at all things and takes great offense at anyone questioning anything she says to the point of punishing them with various kinds of retribution. She’s highly manipulative in her approach to interpersonal interactions, micro-manages everything and everyone, can’t be trusted and seems to have no concern for anything other than her own self-promotion. The walls of her office are completely decorated with pictures of herself and the various trophies and awards she’s somehow manipulated other people into giving her. She’s highly susceptible to insincere flattery, which I’ve found is the only way to work with her and something I’m not good at doing.

In other words, a formerly great job has turned into a toxic nightmare where half my team has quit and the rest are looking for work elsewhere — including me. Unfortunately, no one wants to hire a creative director my age and those same companies find me overqualified for anything less than that. In other words, I’m stuck in a dysfunctional, toxic situation working under a narcissist who is now hiring under-qualified sycophants who see an opportunity for themselves in sucking up to her. It grows more insufferable by the day as the damage accumulates.

I’ve been trying to make up for this lack of creative and professional satisfaction by increasing my freelance work, which has gotten to the point of becoming a nearly full-time second job. I’d quit my day job if it weren’t for the insurance and other benefits that I’ll need in retirement. In addition, I find freelancing stressful since every new client is like starting over at a new job. The work is never consistent, and juggling the clients and their expectations is beginning to take a toll on my well-being. In addition, the work is often monotonous, uncreative and plagued with client-imposed issues that make good results all but impossible.

I’ve never been one to look forward to retirement and I still don’t. My current situation, though, of nothing but 80-hour work weeks with little personal satisfaction is driving me nuts.

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It might sound counter-intuitive, but a shot or two has always worked for me. It makes mundane things (and people!) seem more interesting and me hyper-focus on whatever task I’m working on. Add in some coffee or a Red Bull and it’ll counteract the inevitable sleepiness that sets in.

(It’s a really bad habit to get into, for many reasons)

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An adult beverage has been known to hit my desk – but usually not until after 3:00 or so on a Friday.

I have pretty bad ADHD and this is a constant struggle for me. Even when I’m hyper focused on working, the volume of jobs causes me to bounce around from project to project all day and makes it feel like I’m not getting things done.

One thing that helps me is a “get things done” check list app (I use Todoist, but there are serval out there). As soon as I think of a task I need to do, I’ll add it to Todoist, label it to a project and/or add an estimated time to it (5m, 15m, 1h, etc). This leaves me with a laundry list of small things to do, so even if I can’t focus on the project at hand I can mindlessly do several small 5min tasks.

Another one that helps me is application tracking app called RescueTime. All it does is track what you are doing on your computer and puts it in a nice UI to gauge your productivity. It lets you label what apps/websites you deem are “productive” and “unproductive”; provides daily/weekly/monthly status updates on how productive you’ve been and allows you to set productively goals. I am my own boss, but when I have this thing turned on it feels like I actually have a boss monitoring my every move.

And finally, moving my office out of my house and into an actual rental space. While I still suffer from distractions, laundry, dishes, and PS4 are out of the equation entirely.


I can stay focused for hours…
then I realize that my work is crap. The effort was in vain.
however sometimes i’m happy with the results.
this happens usually when I draw and re-trace something, this can last for hours. but it’s a cool feeling, hours pass by like minutes.
try to express your ideas on paper, doodle, draw, illustrate…
idk but working on a computer is difficult, distractions everywhere.
let’s check my mail, oh got a message on fb, play a game… i’d keep this for the evening.
idk if you’re a morning person but the time when I wake up at 05:00 to 09:00 is the time where I do 80% of my work.

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This thread gave me an idea for a related topic.

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Even when compensation is fair, the client, product, or type of work might be uninspiring, leading to lack of enthusiasm and lack of focus.

Here’s an article about a book about BS Jobs

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I find I’m more productive early in the day. Make a list, start with the most important/nearest deadline and cross things off as you complete them. Sometimes I’ll jump to an easy completion just to reduce the list visually. I create my list on Monday morning by going through my email inbox. I keep that fairly clean, only outstanding projects, meetings, events ect. If my inbox is over 100 items I clean it up. I like to keep it around 50-60 tops (right now 59) I delete all duplicates and keep the last one in the thread. Self discipline isn’t easy, but that’s how I do it. Sometimes by Thursday/Friday I’m able to relax, play golf or do something I like.

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