August 08, 2016

A guy focusing on work

Image courtesy of Startup Stock Photos

Being on top of all things is essential in support. It allows the email queue to stay under control while keeping an eye on live chat. But being on top of it all comes with a bad side. In a 5 minute window, you go from live chat to email, the next email, and back to responding to that Slack message.

With constant context switching, an important skill starts to dull: Focus.

Cal Newport wrote his most recent book, Deep Work on just this topic. He theorizes:

Deep work is becoming increasingly valuable at the same time that it’s becoming increasingly rare. Therefore, if you cultivate this skill, you’ll thrive.

I’ve taken Cal’s thinking to heart. In my role in Customer Success at Wildbit, 40% of my week is outside of the inbox and working on customer success. It’s taken rewiring and weeding of focus skills that have degraded over the years.

I’ve started this rewiring by adopting my own version of the Pomodoro Technique. It’s dead simple too: you work in 25-minute bursts, take a short break, then repeat. In those 25 minutes, you free yourself of distractions.

A Pomodoro is best ran with a clear goal and sub-tasks. In the case of writing, for me, it’s an outline. Between each Pomodoro, I jot down what I did. The log gives me a historical reference to look back at how I’m using my time.

I also find listening to music that I’ve heard over and over is best (Ratatat is a favorite of mine for this). It blocks out audible distractions.

Every Support professional should be honing their focus skills. Focus is the intangible power to get out of the inbox and set yourself apart. There’s plenty of day to day scenarios where this is important; from planning out a campaign reaching out to customers who are detractors or to putting together “when the shit hits the fan” plan.

How are you winning back focus?

Written over two Pomodoro’s

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