Increase Your Productivity Through Deeply Focused Work
It’s not hyperbolic to say that the ability to focus deeply can transform your work and career. According to Cal Newport, acclaimed author and computer science professor at Georgetown:
“The ability to concentrate without distraction on a demanding task (what I call “deep work”) is becoming more rare at the same time that it’s becoming more valuable in the knowledge sector. As a result, those individuals and organizations who put in the hard work to cultivate this skill will thrive.”
It’s a simple concept, but staying focused is much more complicated in practice. If you’re like most entrepreneurs and small business owners, your daily life is full of distractions. It’s easy to jump from one task to another, and the internet makes procrastination a breeze. In our modern world, it’s hard to find your flow on tasks and projects.
Fortunately, you can retrain your brain and learn how to achieve deep focus. Here’s how.
1. Accept that willpower isn’t enough
The ability to “power through” a mentally demanding task isn’t enough. Willpower is a finite resource. Eventually, you’ll run out.
Instead of relying on willpower, create systems you can count on to stay productive.
2. Schedule deep work on your calendar
Your calendar is the perfect place to implement systems that encourage deep work. Schedule blocks of time into your day the same way you’d block off time for a meeting or other appointment.
Then, treat those blocks of time with the same respect you’d give to any other important event on your agenda. You’ll still need some willpower to get started, but a system helps eliminate decision fatigue.
3. Start with small sessions of focused work
Don’t expect to crank out a full day’s worth of uninterrupted work from the get-go, especially if you’re re-training your brain to focus without distraction. Even a 15-minute session of deeply focused work can make a noticeable dent in your to-do list.
There are apps and techniques that can help with this, too. The 30/30 app encourages users to work for 30 minutes with zero distractions followed by a 30-minute break to recharge. You can also customize your work/break cycles.
4. Define what deep work looks like to you
“Deep work” looks different for everyone — what does it mean to you?
- Will you turn all of your desktop and smartphone notifications to ‘Do Not Disturb’?
- Are you allowed to take breaks to grab a snack?
- Are you more productive at a certain time in the day?
- Do you have any metrics that will help you measure success, like the number of words written or sales calls made?
- Are you going to block yourself from accessing certain websites?
- Is there a specific type of music you’ll listen to?
- Do you need to communicate any of these rules with colleagues, family members or others who might interrupt your work?
When you think about these questions ahead of time, it’s much easier to create systems and habits that support deep focus.
5. Find what works best for you
Everyone’s mind is different, and that’s why you need to test different deep focus techniques.
Some people work best in short bursts and others prefer long stretches of time. Music can be a focus-enhancer or frustrating distraction. Night owls might find it impossible to focus in the morning, and the list goes on.
Approach deep focus like a science experiment. Soon enough, you’ll find your magic formula.