With just over ten years of experience in marketing and with the role of in-house manager at Storytel behind him, Oskar Eklind's life was turned upside down when, in 2019, he suffered brain fatigue after meningitis. In 2021, he chose to start his own company to train and lecture on how to find focus and become more productive: "The disease gave me an ultimatum – solve it or give up," he says.
Suffering from brain fatigue is characterized by feeling powerless and exhausted in a way that cannot be "rested away". For Oskar, who in 2019 worked as an in-house manager at Storytel, it meant a life change. Today, he runs his own business, where he helps individuals and teams create structure, become more productive, and work focused on what makes a difference so that they can work less and get more energy for other things. Oskar elaborates:
– When I got sick, I found it challenging to focus, and it became complicated with social contexts and noisy environments. More limited energy simply. The disease gave me an ultimatum – solve it or give up. So since then, it has been my journey to create the best possible conditions to continue to deliver and create something of value. My primary experience from that work over the past 4.5 years is that all knowledge workers can benefit from better structure and focus. Because yes, I have limited energy, but so do you. And then you need the right conditions to do the best things possible with your energy and time.
We live in the digitisation age, which means the best conditions for becoming hyper-productive. However, this is only sometimes the case. According to Oskar, it is up to everyone to take ownership of how they choose to spend their time; he explains:
– Most of my clients' biggest challenges are the need for more structure; they have everything in their heads. They rely too much on remembering things, which costs energy and time. Then, there is this thing about taking ownership of your energy and time. Sometimes, you need to adapt based on your colleagues and customers. But not every waking second. It can feel more accessible and safer to spend the days in meetings. But how does it help you move forward?
“I am worried about our productivity going forward, which is mainly connected to our focus. Or rather the lack of focus time”
Do you see any trends regarding how people can work more productively? What do you think we will see more of in 2024?
– I am worried about our productivity going forward, which is mainly connected to our focus. Or rather the lack of focus time. We are getting worse and worse at setting aside time and energy to work focused, with one thing at a time. Instead, our days are filled with meetings and multitasking. We can start working from that, and step one is to be aware of one's current situation.
– If I'm going to be positive, the AI boom has to enter here. If you use the tools correctly, it can help you save hours of work and make your everyday life more efficient. But don't get stuck there. You need to become more efficient, but above all, you need to become more productive. And you do that by being aware of how you spend your time and what you put your attention and energy on.
How to focus
So, where do you start? If you also want to get better at finding focus, Oskar believes that taking it in the right order is the best way. He elaborates:
– It would help if you started with your goals and priorities. Map out what is important work for you. What do you need to do to get ahead? Once you've landed in it, it's about planning and structuring your everyday life to create the right conditions for you to do the job. It can be about planning focus time in the calendar and your days based on your energy. Do you find it most straightforward to get into flow and work focused in the morning? Save that time on meetings or admin, then do your most important job! Then apps and tools can help you along the way, for example, by working with a "Second brain" where you collect all your writing, articles, thoughts, and projects and do's. It would help if you had as little in your head as possible so that you can use your capacity actually to do the work.
Notion is the favourite
Finally, Oskar shares his three favorite tools when it comes to productivity:
– Notion is my absolute darling. There, I collect my entire business and life, with everything from writing to projects, weekly reviews and notes, and reflections from what I read. The important thing is not what program you use to create structure and relieve your head, but THAT you use something. A simple and well-functioning To-do app goes a long way.
– Readwise and their Reader is a phenomenal service for collecting your highlights from everything you read digitally, whether it's articles or on your Kindle. It is invaluable for those who want to learn and remember more of what they read.
– Focus Mode for iOS and MacOSX. It's often said that "Airplane mode is the best feature on your phone", but that's not entirely true; Focus Mode tops the list. With Focus Mode, you can block out all the notifications you want and simultaneously allow others. In my mode for focused work, all notifications are blocked on my devices, except SMS and calls from my daughter's preschool. In this way, I can work undisturbed and focused, but at the same time, with calm around me, I can respond if (read when...) they get in touch.