It’s an epidemic. We are busy. Most of us are too busy.
At the recommendation of a friend, I started listening to the book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”. The title resonated with me immediately and I could not wait to get started. The author, Cal Newport, makes the claim that anyone who is committed to and able to effectively practice ‘deep thinking’, that person will be in the minority in the future and the ability to deeply think and work will be a differentiating value in the future workforce. It is not a difficult claim to believe given the level of distraction in the work world these days. Deep work requires that you are willing to dedicate uninterrupted time thinking about, mulling over, brainstorming a question, challenge or topic. The key words? Dedicate and uninterrupted.
When is the last time you focused on one topic or task, with all potential distractions disallowed? That means no phone, no email, no texts, no interruptions.
Deep Work is a challenge. It’s a challenge to pursue uninterrupted time of focus in a distracted world.
If I want to do deep work, where will I start? What small steps can I take that will generate progress?
To start — I identified two very important projects I want to finish. I have two very big impact work projects that will create huge impact if I can simply finish! They are both in progress. I can imagine the benefit of focusing deeply on those projects, eliminating distractions, and committing to focus until I am finished. So, where to start?
I am going to try two things to put the concept of deep work into action.
First, I deleted all social media accounts from my phone. A typical Eileen over-reaction. LOL. Then, I added back on Snapchat (because I only connect with my family) and Instagram (because I love photos the most and I find Instagram to be less trashed and riddled with ads than Facebook. I love Twitter, but unfortunately, it is a big distraction for me — I love shiny things and Twitter lures me in and keeps me in too long! This past week was very interesting. When I typically would have taken a five-minute brain break by looking at social media, instead I resisted the urge and forced myself to continue focusing on the work. It was amazing how quickly I could get right back into it.
The second thing I have committed to is a short trip somewhere away from my home office, by myself for a few days, with just me and my iPad and a to-do list that has TWO priorities on it… and only two. I’ve got to admit I am really excited about being able to spend quality time with these two priorities. I am already imagining the progress I am going to make and the clarity and closure I will achieve. I will call it my ‘Deep Work Long Weekend’. I will let you know how it goes in a future blog.
What do you have in your world that would benefit from some ‘deep work’? What have you been thinking about that could turn into something bigger if you were willing to commit to focus? What have you been planning to do that you could check off your list if you were able to spend a 4-hour time block to finish?
What two action steps can you take to make progress happen?