Learn what top-performers do to limit distractions & increase concentration.
In a previous email, we shared info about the value of resilience. That is, the ability to fail, learn and bounce back while advancing toward a goal. Resilience is great for learning skills, and it can give you an enormous advantage in modern advanced economies.
Another skill that produces these same benefits is focus. Resilience and focus go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can enhance your ability to focus with healthy eating habits, meditation, herbs like Nambu’s Bacopa Monnieri and Deep Work.
Thank you for asking. A computer science professor named Cal Newport, owner of the blog Study Hacks, is the author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
Deep Work is the ability to concentrate without distraction and to create high-quality work in less time. As technology becomes more sophisticated, it both raises and lowers our work efficiency. It’s becoming more important, for individual success and the success of the workforce as a whole, to learn how to do high-quality work -- work that is not easily replicated -- at a fast pace. The quality depends on your level of focus.
Deep Work; The Fundamentals
Create Real Value
Employees want to show they’re providing value. In today’s workplaces, the easiest thing to do is to stay busy, even if what you’re doing isn’t providing results. It gets you a pat on the back. Employees and managers should measure the results of each task and project to monitor progress.
Minimize Attention Residue
When you switch between different tasks, it kills your efficiency. For example, your company expects you to be very fast with email replies. You’re busy writing an ebook. To meet the expectation, you have to stop writing the ebook and check email. You lose a lot of efficiencies when switching tasks, or when multitasking. That loss is called attention residue. Do one thing at a time.
Block out particular times for particular tasks, and stick with them. Do the same for work location. If you need to go jogging, meditate or do an hour of yoga to fuel your workday, schedule that in.
Newport recommends Shutdown Rituals. When a project is incomplete, your brain gets over-excited and works harder to keep the project in your memory. This will drain your attention until you complete it. When you finish work for the day, do something that tells your brain that it can rest. This could be a favorite herbal tea or a reward. Do the same for completed projects.
Make Good Use of Free Time
Newport recommends not to act out of boredom during free time. It’s best to be thoughtful and structure that time. Favor activities that are personally meaningful. When you get back to work, you’ll feel more refreshed.
If you need to be distracted during work blocks, you can schedule “anything goes” times. Play your favorite zombie shooter game, frolic outside or do whatever you feel like doing. If you schedule for distractions, you’ll find it’s better than scheduling breaks from distractions.
Set Goals Outside Your Comfort Zone
This could mean self-imposing a deadline that is a little shorter than you would like. Measure yourself and turn it into a game. Always ask yourself what you need to do to improve.
These are just a few principles of Deep Work. You can buy Calvin Newport’s book on Kindle or read free summaries of the book (there are lots of them online).
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