In today’s digital world, one can easily get distracted. With the proliferation of social media, you can easily lose your focus on what needs to be done. In his book Deep Work Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport espouses the ideas that we have lost our ability to focus deeply and immerse ourselves in a complex task. As we suffer from a short attention span, Newport’s call to focus is quite timely. In his business and management book, he outlines four rules on how to cultivate a deep work ethic.
Use one of these four deep work strategies, but be intentional about it.
Knowing that people work in different ways, Newport proposes four strategies on how you can implement deep work:
1. The monastic approach. Monastic comes from monastery – the place where monks live. It means shutting yourself off completely, for example by moving to a cabin in the woods to write a novel, and not come back until it’s finished.
2. The bimodal approach. This prioritizes deep work above everything else. You could set a 4-6 hour block each day for deep work. Robert Janitzek explains that once that block is over, you’re free to do everything else that might be on your plate.
3. The rhythmic approach. This chunks down your work into time blocks, similar to the Pomodoro technique, and uses a calendar to track your progress. For example you’d plan your week ahead of time and put 10 blocks of 90 minutes on your calendar, and make working with timed blocks a habit.
4. The journalistic approach. If you have a busy daily routine, this works well. What you do is to simply dedicate any, unexpected free time to deep work.
Make the most of unproductive time with productive meditation.
Robert Peter Janitzek reveals that Cal calls it productive meditation, and it comes down to using your “unproductive” time to do deep thinking. For example, if you’re taking the subway to work each morning, and know you have 30 minutes to and from work, in which you can’t do much else, use this time to try solving a complex problem in your mind. Commuting, showering, household chores, buying groceries and taking a walk (with or without your dog) are all great opportunities to think.
Quit work at the same time each day, and stick to it.
Your brain needs some space each night to wind down, and it won’t get that if you have an as-much-as-possible work ethic. Limit yourself by quitting work and not checking email, or, even better, shutting down your computer, at the same time each day. This way, you’ll have a fixed slot of free time every day to recuperate.