Deep work – ditch distractions and be one of the focused few

by M Tombs
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With the development of technology and social media, distraction is the new normal. A recent study found that a typical office worker gets just 11 minutes between interruptions, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interference.

In his book, Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Professor Cal Newport suggests that serious professionals quit social media entirely. He defines deep work as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit”.

Here are five ways to get into what’s called a “flow state” – where you’re ultra-productive and focused:

1. Limit social media.
If Facebook or another site is stealing too much of your time, restrict your use of it with an app like Freedom or StayFocused – these apps restrict the minutes spent on social media.

2. Give yourself a strict time period to work.
Strict time periods limit procrastination and prevent burnout. The more limits you give yourself, the less time you have for wasting. Deadlines such as ‘I have 90 minutes to finish this business case’. Or ‘I’ll finish work by 5:30 each day’ make it easier to keep yourself on task.

3. Introduce deep work strategies.

  • Monastic: isolate yourself for long periods of time without distractions.
  • Bimodal: reserve a few consecutive days when you’ll work like a monastic. For example, you go to your quiet space Monday to Wednesday, then return to your usual routine of meetings and taking calls the rest of the week.
  • Rhythmic: take three to four hours each day to perform deep work on your project. This strategy might involve blocking your calendar from 8am-12pm each day so you can work uninterrupted.

4. Transition to deep work.
Use rituals and set routines to minimise friction in your transition to depth.

After you decide on your working philosophy, commit to scheduling deep work blocks into your diary and stick to them. Scheduling a specific time of day in advance negates the need to use willpower. Also, know where you’ll work and for how long. Create a zone specifically to perform deep work.

5. Drain the shallows.
Confine shallow work so it doesn’t impede your ability to take full advantage of deeper efforts. Use time blocking to schedule every minute of your day, and group tasks into blocks, such as emailing, printing, scheduling meetings, etc.

Don’t worry if you have to adjust your schedule multiple times. The goal is to maintain a say in what kind of work you’re doing. Deep work improves efficiency -get in touch if you’d like help with other efficiency strategies in your business.

“The (person) who works so moderately as to be able to work constantly not only preserves (their) health the longest but, in the course of the year, executes the greatest quantity of work.” – Adam Smith

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