Doing deep work
Think strategically about your day and it will have a big impact. Cal Newport, author of the book Deep Work makes the distinction between shallow and deep work. Ever heard of the Pomodoro timer? It’s a technique to lay off everything and just focus on one thing specific. For 25 minutes you just focus on one task and after this, you can take a 5-minute break. These Pomodoro sprints are very effective. For the simple reason that you only choose one task and just focus on that for a fixed amount of time. No switching between different tasks allowed and just the sole attention of getting that one task done. People love multitasking, but does it work? Busy people multitask, productive people focus.
Try it for yourself. Write down ‘I am good at multitasking’ and the numbers 1 till 20. Now try the same text but blend the to things together like I1a2m3g4o5o6d7. Almost everyone takes twice as long for the latter. You probably made a few mistakes, had to think about it really deeply which takes a lot of energy. And still, people love multitasking. It is an easy way out when a task gets hard. Instead of going in to focus more on your task there as these easy way out towards email, going through notes, or distractions like social media. Deep creative work also has a huge ramp-up time. If you complete 90% of a deliverable and say you’ll “do the last 10% later”, you have to ramp all the way up again just to finish the last 10%.
So instead of constantly going back to doing shallow work like checking your email, it is better to batch this into designated time slots. In these time slots, you are more than allowed to do this work. By planning these sessions into your agenda, (remember agenda everything) you can keep yourself to it. So start with planning three short sessions into your agenda. Define these sessions so you have a clear idea of what you are going to do. Make a simple list of what you are allowed to do.
Mine looks like this:
- Check email
- Check Instagram
- Check Twitter
- Check Linkedin
Outside of the shallow sessions, you simply don't do them. This way you’re not letting these small tasks creep in throughout the day, and when you’re doing them, you’re completely focused on getting them done. No more wasting time on them, and no more losing your focus to them.
There are certain apps you can use if you still struggle with implementing it because you open your email or Twitter nonetheless. For example, use the app Cold Turkey to block certain websites outside your time slots. There is also a setting in Gmail where you can let your emails only flow in on designated times.