Rumzz is a digital strategist and content marketer. Loves to go out, experience new moments whenever they came to light
Many people struggle to do meaningful work during the day. Email and social media notifications, coworkers dropping by, meetings, and other distractions keep us from crushing our major tasks. At the end of what seems to be a busy day, we often feel tired and unaccomplished. Whether you freelance or work a 9-to-5, we’re all too familiar with this feeling.
Dr. Cal Newport wrote a book called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World to help people become more productive through deep work. He describes deep work as:
“Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
Simply put, deep work is the ability to time-block and focus working on cognitively demanding tasks without distractions. This isn’t the type of work that normally fills an average person’s day. You need to be intentional about how you spend your day. Otherwise, the hours could slip away towards activities that Dr. Carl Newport refers to as “shallow work.”
Shallow work pertains to small tasks that fill your day, such as administrative tasks, including attending meetings, filing paperwork, and responding to emails.
According to Newport, there is a better way to work: You need to batch your most important tasks and schedule them into uninterrupted blocks of time.
In a world full of distractions, the ability to perform deep work is the most valuable skill in the 21st century, and here’s how you can apply it in your day-to-day:
1. Choose a deep work philosophy that works for you.
The key to successful deep work is to be intentional. You need to make an effort and add smart routines to your workday. Here are the four philosophies to incorporate deep work into your day-to-day life:
a) Monastic: You dedicate a considerable chunk of your workday to do highly focused tasks instead of shallow tasks. Eliminate all kinds of distractions and focus all your efforts on the more significant tasks at hand.
b) Bimodal: This philosophy is when you divide your deep focus to-dos into weeks or months. This means you aren’t always deep working, but you’ve scheduled time blocks for when you get back to it.
c) Rhythmic: In this philosophy, you schedule a few hours to do deep work, while the rest of the day is allocated for shallow work. It’s called rhythmic because there’s a rhythm between Deep and Shallow working.
d) Journalistic: This philosophy works best for people who have erratic schedules and can only deep work whenever possible. Cultivate a Habit of Deep Work
2. Cultivate a Habit of Deep Work
Once you’ve chosen a deep work philosophy that works for you, be sure to commit to schedule it in your calendar and stick to it. It helps to add routines and rituals to your life to minimize the use of willpower, so you can easily transition into a state of unbroken concentration.
Here’s how you can incorporate deep work into your schedule:
• Set a time frame. How many hours of deep work can you allocate for each task? This depends on the task you’re working on, so be sure to allocate enough time.
• Find a spot for deep working. Look for a place used only for deep working, like a conference room, a library, or an area in your house.
• Set rules and processes. This is the key to successfully implement deep work. Should you refrain from browsing the net when you’re working? Are there ways to measure your productivity?
3. Eliminate Distractions
We live in a world filled with distractions. It seems impossible to remain 100% focused on the task at hand when we’re distracted by chatty colleagues, social media, or even emails. As a result, our attention span significantly decreased.
Here are some tips on how to eliminate distractions and improve focus:
• Schedule social media time. If you struggle with excessive social media usage, you can try to minimize temptations and distractions by scheduling it. However, be sure to avoid browsing social media during these times.
• Use noise-canceling headphones. You can use noise-canceling headphones to focus on your task.
• Use the Pomodoro Technique. This technique allows you to set a number of hours of straight working separated by breaks in between.
• Turn off phone notifications. Notifications can break your focus and interrupt your flow. Try disabling your notification because most of the time, people will call if it’s truly urgent.
4. Don’t Forget to Rest
If you’re not used to deep working, you may feel overwhelmed at the end of a session. That is why long stretches of concentration should be balanced by quality downtime.
Studies show that the average person can only be fully focused for about 4 hours per day. After this peak, our ability to concentrate decreases. Rest is a crucial part of deep work.
At the end of each workday, don’t think about work issues until the following day. Don’t check your emails after dinner, no replays of what happened during the day, avoid planning about an upcoming task or project. Train your mind to stop thinking about work completely.
This is definitely easier said than done, but here are some of the reasons why downtime is as important as concentration:
• Get energized. Rest is necessary to fuel your deep working efforts. You can fully focus on a task once you’ve taken a break from it.
• Improve creativity. Did you know that overworking can dull your creativity? Creativity takes place when the mind is at rest.
• After-work tasks aren’t that important. More often than not, after-work tasks aren’t usually that important. Ask yourself, is shallow work more important than quality rest?
Quality rest and downtime don’t mean you get to watch Netflix all evening. Be more intentional when resting by doing a digital detox. Minimize screen time and focus more on other activities that fuel growth.
Effectively incorporating deep work into your schedule is an essential productivity skill in today’s distracted world. By following these tips above, you can kickstart your deep work journey and develop the most coveted skill in the 21st century.
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