Lee Granas (EPOBio, Hist’01) is the co-founder of focused, a San Francisco-based company providing space for people seeking distraction-free work. WIRED called the company “the latest productivity solution to come out of Silicon Valley.”
At focused, clients attend a 2.5-hour small-group session, which starts with a one-on-one goal-setting meeting and a brief meditation practice. Then, it’s time to get to work on the project or task at hand. The cost: $40. With any luck, at the end of 2.5 hours, their work is done.
Granas previously worked for a productivity app called Workflowy and the National Library of Medicine’s Visible Human Project. She also helped create an online “atlas of human emotions” for The Dalai Lama.
Here she talks about what makes focused work and what it takes to get unstuck during a project.
What is it about life today that creates the need for focused?
Our modern world continually chases our attention. It’s no surprise how we are unintentionally pulled to our phones, yet it is often a surprise how fractured our attention is even at our computers. When our clients turn off Slack, messenger apps and email they are often amazed at how much they can get done. We help you reclaim your intention and become productive in a more conscious and satisfying way.
Is your service effective because it puts a person, physically and mentally, in a different place?
Absolutely. Many of our clients normally work from home or cafés. They find that coming into our space provides a different type of supported container, allowing them to get more done. They also can tackle harder and more complex work that they might avoid or distract from on their own. Our space is like a refuge from the modern world and feels like a retreat center in the middle of a city.
That being said, we are currently piloting remote sessions via video-chat. We are adding components to help create a supportive environment even from your home.
Can you share a success story about someone who just couldn’t complete a task until coming to focused?
One woman always wanted to apply to an artist residency program, but she had been putting it off for months. Every time she tried to work on the application on her own, she became intimidated and found ways to distract herself. When she came to focused, the structure and support allowed her to finish and submit the entire application.
Often we help our clients with their fears, which allows them to get unblocked and complete hard tasks. Other clients use focused to work on novels or screenplays that they can never make time for during a busy week.
What do you do when you get stuck and just can’t get something done?
Usually there is an underlying emotion when you are stuck. Perhaps there is fear, or perfectionism, or a deeper reason why the task is challenging. If you can identify that emotion, it can often help you get unblocked. We have found, unexpectedly, that compassion for a hard task is usually more powerful and effective than extra discipline.
Milwaukee journalist Tom Kertscher was a 35-year newspaper reporter, finishing that career at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Now a freelance writer, his work includes fact-check reporting for PolitiFact and sports reporting for Associated Press. His reporting on Steven Avery was featured in Making a Murderer. Kertscher is the author of sports books on Brett Favre and Al McGuire. Follow him at TomKertscher.com and on Twitter: @KertscherNews and @KertscherSports.
Photo courtesy Lee Granas