“If you can’t focus, use FocusMe.”
This is what Elena Luchina, Lecturer at University of Michigan, was advised when she presented her course syllabus to an esteemed colleague.
Elena had tried everything to help her focus – browser extensions, support groups, other productivity apps, and even turning off her internet (which doesn’t work well when you’re doing research)…
Things changed dramatically when she tried the FocusMe app, because as she said, “All the other apps are just too easy to disable.”
This is why I created FocusMe. For myself and others who seriously struggle with distractions.
Hi I’m Jon Rumens, founder and CEO of FocusMe, and my team met with Elena so we could understand exactly why the FocusMe app was a gamechanger and how it ended up retraining her brain to be at ease with focused, creative, productive work at her laptop.
These are the kind of stories that give you hope (yes, even YOU can get great work done in a timely manner!).
Here’s our conversation. Can you see yourself in Elena’s story?
Hi Elena! So first of all, what do you teach at UM?
I’m a lecturer, so right now I’m not teaching, but I’m preparing for the next year and I’m also a PHD student. I teach languages, also I teach some seminars. The main thing is preparing language classes.
Why did you decide to become an educator?
You know, I was thinking, “Am I gonna go the research path?” I felt like it lacks communication. But I liked conferences. I like working with different people.
When I was in grad school, there was this first moment I realized that I have ADHD.
I was failing miserably. I was like, “I can’t do this.”
I wasn’t sure what I should do or not, but then there was this research project. Me and my friends were training students, teaching them and supervising them and I liked that! I thought, “I should continue with grad school.”
But you know, in order to teach at the higher ed, you need to get a PhD. So, that’s what I’m doing now.
How did you end up hearing about FocusMe?
Yeah, that’s very interesting.
I was developing a course and this professor was helping. She gave me her draft syllabus and I gave her my draft syllabus. Hers was really well organized, it was very student-oriented – it was thinking about the students’ needs. It was very very thorough.
She was giving me advice and she said, “If you can’t focus, use FocusMe.”
Over the last several years, I’ve been trying a lot of productivity apps. First of all, I’ve used a lot of different blocks on browsers. I was also in different accountability groups. And now I’m part of another community…
I’m using all of that! Yet, I do the majority of my work using FocusMe.
I’m using support groups and they’ve been very helpful and on top of that, I’m using FocusMe.
What were your challenges before using the FocusMe app?
In general, I really struggle to focus because of the ADHD stuff. I can’t bring myself to start or quit anything that I’m doing.
I was graduating with honors but I really struggled to write my thesis (it’s a big paper, around 100 pages long, above American undergrad level). I was behind on work, and I had to take an additional year to write it. In the end, I did graduate with honors. I was smart, but was frustratingly helpless with big-graduate-level projects because of the ADHD.
I wish that I had the same skills I have now, and that I had tools like FocusMe back then, so that I wouldn’t just mindlessly scroll.
It’s really helpful to run a FocusMe Session, knowing that, “Okay, in the next two hours… I’m stuck with this and I can’t Google anything.” I just write and use Google during my dedicated break time.
How do you use the FocusMe app today?
The most challenging part of my job is not the online teaching, but developing a curriculum for language classes and seminars.
As for designing the language classes, you’re always on the hunt for some authentic materials. So you need to go to different websites, look for some information, and decide if you’re going to use it or not…
You’d work a lot with Google docs and other apps. Like, now I’m teaching online so there’s a bunch of interactive apps, etc. There’s a lot of shifting focus here and there.
Sometimes when I would really need to focus, I would switch off the internet in the house and then work. I would also try to deactivate all my browsers.
What’s changed since you’ve started using FocusMe?
Right now, when I’m working and there’s a FocusMe Session, I need to block everything but one or two websites. Yet I didn’t know how to do that before.
With teaching, when you need to do research, you definitely need to have two monitors open while everything else is closed.
I think the most popular thing is when I’m doing something in a Word document and I only have the FocusMe window open and everything else is blocked. This really helps me to stay on task.
Sometimes, I create language tests and I have 20 words and I have to find pictures for them. I have to block everything besides Google Images.
Would you recommend FocusMe to other colleagues or students?
Yeah, I tell people about this all the time. I like giving people some unsolicited advice!
One last question, may we know the reason why you chose FocusMe over the other productivity apps?
All the other apps are just too easy to disable.
I also like that it’s not within the browser, because if you go to the browser and you really want to open a different website – you just get switched off.
Also a lot of other apps would glitch but with FocusMe, I haven’t seen any glitch yet – so it’s good!
You know what, it’s because it trains your brain. And then in principle, you kind of don’t need it anymore!
I’m still using FocusMe and I’m realizing that my brain – I trained it to focus. I trained it to do these longer sessions. Now my brain knows how to do it.
It’s very important to communicate to people that FocusMe teaches you. It trains you. You can try shorter sessions and then you can build up to a longer session.
It’s really a tool to train your brain to be more effective.
Elena found her way and you can too.
Elena’s story is powerful because it shows that a little dedication to find the solution that works for you makes all the difference in success or failure.
She didn’t give up on her career goals, even when she was on the brink of failing in undergrad or doing poorly as she stepped into becoming an educator.
“The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.”
– Norman Vincent Peale
And here’s the thing – there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re distracted.
In fact, you’re just a normal human being trying to make it in a beeping, buzzing, digitally-crazed world.
Studies are showing how digital distraction and media multitasking (switching from multiple digital activities to others) actually decreases your mental focus over time.
It’s hard to stay focused.
This is ultimately why I created FocusMe, which is not only totally customizable and constantly being improved by customer feedback, but ultimately, you can’t just uninstall the app – if you don’t want to. We make it hard for you!
If you are highly addicted and distracted, no problem – we can get you blocked from those distractions in no time – just the way you need, how and when.
It has been so great to hear from Elena Luchina at University of Michigan how she got her inspiration back.
Thrilled to share this story with any educators, students, or entrepreneurs out there who want to achieve some major goals in life and might need an app to keep you focused.