After experimenting with regaining focus while also performing the more distracting elements of my job, there were a few things that I found worked (with or without a two-screen system):

  • Slow down, and choose one thing to work on at a time. By multitasking to the extreme and constantly switching between projects, you may think you’re being productive, when, really, you’re being frantic.
  • Mimic a “school-day” calendar by creating blocks for different types of work during the day. If you have 2 different projects to work on, block off 1-2 hours for each, with a hour in between when you can catch up on social media and email.
  • Leave your desk. Even if this means simply bringing a pad of paper into the conference room at your office, physical separation from your distractions will help you gain clarity as you start a new project.
  • Consider your old techniques for productivity and carry a few specific ones over to your workday. Even if social media is at the core of your job, don’t let yourself off the hook from remembering how you used to get your work done.

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(content via Lab Rat: How Can A Social Media Addict Find Focus?

Another interesting and timely article about "achieving focus". I found it interesting that my experiences of my recent experiments were similar. I think I may have to do the leaving my desk thing more often. I've found myself using a piece of paper and a pencil to draw mind maps for the stuff I'm thinking about so there is no reason at all why I can't do that from our social room, a coffee shop or even at someone else's desk in the office. I don't need to be tied to email, it'll still be there when I come back (unfortunately) and I'm fully contactable via a work mobile phone.  

And to feed back on my own experiments of commitments -  the switching email off thing failed. It just isn't practical in our organisation at the moment, and my zero inbox policy combined with my Do it tomorrow macro makes me more effective than most in this area anyway. I just have to get better at not checking it so often and controlling my distraction impulse.  The controlling my own calendar experiment has worked better and I've pushed back on appointments which didn't fit in with the other commitments I already had with tighter deadlines or which were of more strategic importance. I also made an effort to block out regular periods of thinking time to allow me a couple of hours of time rather than 15 minutes between meetings.

Progress is being made.