Beep Beep… messages, calls, Facebook notifications, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and much more. We are constantly distracted by the technology around us. We are supposed to use technological gadgets, not to be used by them. Focus and concentration are extremely valuable assets in this 21st century which is decreasing day by day. We all want to be productive, but we are not ready to work the way productivity demands us. We can boost our productivity by focusing on a single task at a time without distractions, using proper strategies and planning. This article is inspired by Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”.
What does “Deep Work” means?
Deep work is well defined by Cal Newport as:
“Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide a sense of true fulfilment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super-power in our increasingly competitive 21st-century economy.”
The opposite of deep work is shallow work. It can be defined as:
“Shallow work is non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style work, often performed while distracted.”
Our needs are getting complicated every new day and so are our problems. To deal with such kind of situations, we need to master problems solving skills as quickly as we can. Curtailing distractions can help us gain skills and expertise capable of solving complex issues of this modern world and unleash our hidden potentials.
How important is “Deep Work”?
The concept of Deep Work seems to be obsolete, but we cannot undermine and ignore its importance in the long term. There is a powerful equation in Cal Newport’s book which is:
Work Accomplished = Time spent x Intensity of Focus
We can accomplish more in less time if we increase our intensity of concentration. Busyness is not a substitute for productivity. Some people seem to be too busy, but they are not doing anything worthy at all. For instance, there are students who can complete all their studies in a few hours while some are working whole nights struggling to cover their daily course. The basic difference is in their approach and methodology they are using. Students using the concept of deep work can get more work done in less time while others are just wasting time and life.
Two kinds of people will be thriving and successful in this economy:
1: Those who can master hard things quickly
2: Those having the ability to produce high quality with speed.
Again, mastering hard things and increasing your productivity to an elite level requires deep and focused work.
How to implement Deep Work in our daily life?
Implementing Deep Work in our day-to-day life is easy when all the activities are divided into two categories, Deep Work and Shallow Work. There must be a specific time period for the deep work in which no other activities are allowed. This time must be allocated for a single task done in a distraction-free environment with intense focus.
Shallow work like emailing, checking Whatsapp messages and surfing the internet should be done in the remaining time. We cannot spend all our day doing deep work. We need shallow work and leisure time as well. The most important thing is to have balance in your life.
While working deeply, regular breaks must be taken to relax the brain and sharpen the focus. Pomodoro Technique is the most important time management method used nowadays. A timer is used in this technique for 25 minutes. Deep Work is done in that period and after that, a small break is taken to relax. This process is repeated again and again. After four task periods, a longer break of 10 to 15 minutes is taken. 25 minutes are for beginners, it can be increased with practice up to 1 hour.
Our willpower is limited so plan beforehand
Our will power is limited and gets depleted when used for a long time without relaxations, says Roy Baumeister, an American social Psychologist.
Baumeister and his colleagues presented a model of will power and self-control. It’s like a muscle. We can make it stronger by workout but at the same time, it gets tired. In the beginning, when we start working and using our will power, it would decrease a little and we would be having issues in self-controlling, but after regular uses and relaxations, it becomes stronger. Research also shows that blood glucose decreases with the exercise of self-control. A person having a low glucose level will find it difficult to have self-control. Intake of glucose is helpful in increasing self-control.
Ritualizing an activity with planning can decrease the burden on the will power. Strategies and planning give a reason and proper direction for the course of action. To-do lists and time blocking are effective methodologies used by the majority of peak performers.
“A 40 hours time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.” — Cal Newport, author of Deep Work
In the to-do list, all tasks to be completed are written on a list. When a task completes, it is removed, and the process goes on until all work is finished. In the time blocking technique, a task is allocated specific time, which must be completed in its reserved time. All activities are planned in advance for the day, so you don’t have to think about choices and what to do next. All you have to do is to manage your time and follow the schedule. That’s it.
Minimize shallow work
Shallow work is non-cognitively demanding work done in a state of distraction. Productivity is inversely proportional to shallow work. Minimizing shallow work increases room for deep work which in turn boosts productivity. Shallow work cannot be completely removed from our lives and it shouldn’t but the key here is balance. We need leisure time to relax and we also need some fun activities for entertainment, but it must not hinder our productivity.
Avoid Technological Distractions
Pros and cons are out there with everything we do in our life. If the benefits of an activity are more than its disadvantages, it takes us no longer to accept it. The same must be applied to social media and other tools of mass distractions. Unfortunately, we are using social media to kill time which otherwise could be used in productive activities. The power of social media cannot be ignored but when used negatively, its drastic negative impact cannot be underestimated. We need to introspect and ask ourselves a question. Are social media and other technological tools help us in achieving our goals and boosting our productivity? If the answer is yes, then go ahead and use it, but if the answer is no, then try to minimize it as much as possible.
Deep work is a cognitively demanding task done in a state of complete focus and concentration. We can increase our productivity many times if we minimize our shallow work and distractions. Strategies and planning decrease the burden on our will power, saves our mental energy which is used when there is a dire need for it. Self-control decreases our glucose level in the blood, so proper intake of glucose can optimize our ability of self-control. Last but not the least, we have to schedule each and every minute at the start of a day. This would help us avoid potential traps of distractions.