Friday, October 18, 2019

The Streamer's Guide to Focus

You've been streaming for a while, slowly improving your consistency. But when it comes to things around the edges- fixing issues, designing graphics, updating social media, or tracking channel metrics to name a few- you simply can't seem to maintain your attention. Whether you're unable to sit down at all, or you start to wander away from your goal while in the middle of working, this fleeting focus is a very common problem that all of us face at one point or another. Of course as I've mentioned in previous entries, streaming should always come first, but maintaining and upgrading the shows during your off-stream hours is also crucial. In this entry, I'm going to share with you how I'm able to focus completely on each stream task I work on, completing it faster and with more accuracy than I had ever thought possible through my previous methods.


When we're busy, most of us begin searching for a way to spend less time on our mountains of incoming work. "I want to get these two hours' worth of stream improvements done in a single hour," you might say to yourself. "But how can I achieve that?" Enter the multitasking workflow. You're now not only upgrading your stream graphics, but you're tweaking OBS settings as well. Two objectives complete in half the time! Or so you tell yourself.

There's a secret most people don't know about multitasking: it doesn't work. 

Unless you're this guy, you shouldn't try it.
As it turns out, the human brain simply isn't built to handle two disparate tasks at the same time. Instead of taking on two workloads concurrently, the mind simply imitates this objective by switching quickly between two tasks of primary focus. This ultimately causes you to not only do a worse job at both tasks, but to actually take longer in the end than it would have taken to complete each task separately.

So get rid of multitasking altogether. Set aside chunks of time to sit down and work only on a single problem regarding your stream. Whether that's designing a graphic, changing PC hardware, tweaking your sound mix, or even engaging with social media, don't do anything else but the one thing you're trying to do. Get used to switching your phone to silent mode, laying it face-down on the table and never picking it up during these times. Turn off all music, Netflix, and other sounds or visuals around you. This all sounds like a no-brainer, but it's harder to do than you might expect. For more details about blocking out time, see the entry Get in the Habit of Streaming. Once you can master the challenge of simplicity, you'll be ready to move on.


One thing that helps me immensely is tailoring tasks to a specific environment. If I'm about to stream, I have everything set up in a specific way- even down to the tabs and windows open on my PC. I actually have an app that opens the exact same configuration of custom-shaped tabs on my two monitors every time I stream. This creates a familiarity with my environment when it's time to go live. When I'm working on graphics, I close everything except what I'm working on. This creates a different environment.

Break stuff down like you're in Red Faction
However, at the beginning of The Twitch Playbook's run, I found it very difficult to concentrate while I was at my PC. So for this task, I took my laptop and relocated to the dining room. And it works wonders. I get an incredible amount of work done on these entries every day, because I'm in a larger open space free of distractions. I'm also physically separated from the space I associate with having to solve other stream-related things, so I don't feel the weight of my mountain of other stream tasks bearing down on me. I never even feel the pull to check social media while I'm in this new location. I've successfully trained my brain to know that when I'm working in the dining room, that time is only for writing. I've never written a single word of The Twitch Playbook from my streaming PC since. If you have a hard time concentrating on a certain stream task on your own, try changing your environment when working on that one thing- see if it works for you.

If you didn't do it during the past entry titled How to Free Up Time for Twitch, you could also try cutting out one of your other, less productive habits. Everything you do in life is competing for not only your time, but your focus as well. Condensing my Facebook usage from dozens of check-ins per day to roughly one check-in per month has done wonders in clearing the fog from my mind. The sinister thing about social media is that it chips away at our focus so gradually that we don't even realize what happened. If you often check in on Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, YouTube, Reddit, or anything else, consider slashing your usage time in order to increase your daily focus.


The nice thing about retraining your brain to focus on streaming is that you'll not only have an easier time getting into the zone, but staying there. Focus isn't something that can be regained so easily when it's broken, so making sure it doesn't slip through your fingers is crucial if you want to get things done quickly and effectively. By removing multitasking, changing my environments, and cutting down on distractions I've been able to massively increase my quality of work in a fraction of the time. When you do the same, the only question that will remain is, what amazing things can you build with all the extra time you've saved?

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