[NeedAdvice] Age: 30, Been in school my whole life, all my time has been discretionary. How to get focused?

I had a similar problem coming out of grad school. Wasn't in school as long as you but same feeling of struggling with "wasted time" and was daunted at the idea of a regular schedule.

So a few tips:

  1. Even if you aren't employed, block out full time hours right now for productivity. My last semester of grad school I was only taking one academic class and technically had plenty of "free time," but I made it a point to be working on something from 9am - 4pm or so. In essence, mimicking a "real world job."
  2. What to fill that time with? Whatever needs doing. My typical schedule was something like: 1-2 hours of job hunting/prepping for interviews, 1-2 hours of my academic class, 1-2 hours of my thesis work, and then the rest of the time with misc crap that needed doing (dishes, cleaning, etc). I even blocked out time for an afternoon walk every day so I wasn't being too lazy. Some days I put more effort into one thing over another, but regardless I had my day blocked out.
  3. A good way to get yourself in the zone is to get ready and dress like it. No, I don't mean wear business clothes all the time. I mean wake up at the same time every day, shower, and put on clothes that aren't pajamas, basically do everything you would need to do to leave your house. This put me in a much more awake and focused mindset than waking up and trying to work in my PJs.
  4. Apps. I also use Fabulous, saw someone else reference it here. It's been a godsend for my morning and evening routines. The more consistent I am in the morning and at night, the better my inbetween is.
  5. For scheduling during the day, I have two notebooks. One is an actual calendar and I use that to pencil in hard deadlines like "x due on the 5th" or "meet with Joe on the 7th." The other is just a small spiral notebook and that's my daily "to do" notebook. This is where I write down everything I need to do TODAY. I think both are valuable, one for keeping track long term, the other keeping yourself busy day to day.
  6. The pomodoro technique is my life. Seriously, I discovered it in undergrad and it's the one consistent way I can get myself to focus and work without distraction. 25 minutes of work, 3 minutes of break. That 3 minutes is plenty of time to get up, stretch, go to the bathroom, get water, etc. I use the Clockwork Tomato app.
  7. For distractions...part of this is just willpower, I'm sorry. The pomodoro thing will help with that, I think, but you need to come up with a way to stop yourself from straying. I have StayFocusd on my computer and use the "nuclear option" when I NEED to work for a few hours with no distractions allowed. Set it to work incognito mode too so you can't easily cheat. I also did a sweep on my phone a while back...all my game apps gone, except for one crossword/puzzle type game I do occasionally. If I want to fidget with my phone I do a lesson of Duolingo (learning Spanish) instead. I didn't uninstall facebook but I took it off my home screen...for me, not seeing it is enough to ignore it. If you find yourself constantly on facebook I recommend uninstalling it. You can still log in from your phone's browser if you NEED to but it's not so quick. And I uninstalled reddit mobile a long time ago, that was a HUGE time sink. No reddit on my phone allowed, period.
/r/getdisciplined Thread