We live in a world full of shiny diversions where staying focused has become increasingly difficult. Today’s digital landscape gives us open access to so many distractions and time-sippers that we end up spending way more time than we should on the smallest of tasks. But, people are managing to rise above the chaos and achieve high levels of productivity and thinking, and I was eager to learn more about this. Many of us could benefit from developing skills to maintain an optimal degree of focus to bring more order to daily life and our sometimes scattered workflow. Enter ‘Deep Work.‘
The Concept Of Deep Work:
Deep work is an idea put forth by Cal Newport, a New York Times bestselling author and professor at Georgetown University. According to Newport, learning how to do deep work is one of the most essential skills to acquire as a working professional.
“If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.”
Deep work involves getting into a flow state or working for extended periods with total concentration. Newport suggests working uninterrupted for 90-minute stretches. Keep in mind that this can be challenging at first. So it’s a good idea to start with smaller stretches and build up the period gradually. It’s essential to focus on a single task and avoid all distractions, if possible, which is a challenge if you’re anything like me. So, what are some of the more simple tips to achieve this deep-work-type state other than the seemingly obvious of turning off devices, entering a headphone bubble, and asking co-workers, children, and significant others not to disturb you for a while.
Here are a few tips on incorporating this concept into your everyday life.
Set Definite Periods To Work
Block out a certain amount of time to spend working every day. When you have a set period to finish your work, you’re likely to spend less time scrolling through your Instagram feed or contemplating what you’re having for dinner. Avoid simple tasks cutting into your work time.
Give yourself some goals and deadlines, and be sure to start winding down at the same time every day. For instance, tell yourself that you have 90 minutes to finish responding to emails or complete a strategy; doing this will help you avoid burnout and stay focused on your tasks for the day.
Limit Your Social Media Time
Start by asking yourself how time on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram contributes positively to your life? There are some positives to social media use, like connecting with our people, networking, and getting inspiration. We’ve all been trapped into spending too much time on these platforms, very quickly forming habits that are hard to break.
Limiting time on social media doesn’t mean completely cutting off your access to these networks, though. Although this approach works for some people, it’s not for everyone. But, it’s a good thing to become aware of how much time we spend scrolling and potentially cut this down.
Keep Yourself in Check
When you begin practicing deep work, it’s essential to stop and assess how it’s working out for you. Were you able to achieve what you set out to do today? Track how many hours you could spend fully immersed in your work and its effect on your productivity.
If you feel you’re not getting enough results you hoped for, it may be time to adopt a fresh approach. Regular honest reviews and consistent improvements are essential aspects of deep work.
Make The Most Of Your Precious Downtime
Finding the right balance is crucial when it comes to maximising your productivity. Balance your stretches of deep work with quality downtime. Set aside some time every day that’s purely for doing the things you enjoy. It’s a good idea to make an effort to engage in activities that make you feel centered and calm. Stay in the moment and avoid worrying about the next day’s to-do list. Challenging, I know.
Give the work changes mentioned above a go, and see if you get a boost in your productivity. While it’s challenging to get into a flow state, it’s a habit that will get easier the more you practice it. And, while getting started can be difficult and involves some testing, once those habits are formed and others reformed, you will be surprised how much you can achieve.
Deep work isn’t meant to be a bore either. Many people find they enjoy their work more when they concentrate intensely, but this isn’t the case for some and may take more time and practice. It’s a test of discipline and self-control but brings unexpected learnings with it.
“The value of deep work vastly outweighs the value of shallow, but this doesn’t mean that you must quixotically pursue a schedule in which all of your time is invested in depth.”
And remember, there will be times when your focus will be scattered, and you’ll enter the stage of “shallow work,” which actually is as important as the deep work in the bigger picture. You’ll start to notice that you get more tasks accomplished in less time, clearing the pathway to you getting more done and opening up space for more quality ‘you’ time.
And, apparently (and I’m still working on this one), once you incorporate the concept of deep work naturally into your daily life, we get rewarded with a new superpower – no distractions being able to distract us. Result!