Wondering how to deep work? And what it even is? Deep work is the art of bringing yourself back into focus when you find it impossibly hard to concentrate. With a world of stimuli around us, it’s sometimes impossible to see one thing to focus on. Quick test, how many tabs do you have open right now? Deep work is the art of focusing on one thing, and giving that thing your entire focus, instead of being distracted.
Still wondering how to deep work? How to catch this magical focus and hold on to it so that you can make the most of your day? Here are a few tips…
Start by editing your day
Schedule time on your calendar to work on something. You can use something like the Goals 2020 Diary or The Project Book to create timed to-do lists and weekly schedules. a If you’re engaging in a cognitively demanding task, Newport recommends no less than a 90-minute chunk. Once it’s in your calendar, treat that time like an important meeting or appointment. If someone asks to meet at noon and that’s in the middle of your deep-work time, schedule the meeting for another time.
Get used to being bored
“Be wary of the habit of never being bored,” says Newport. Many of us fall into the habit of whipping out our phones every time we feel a little bit bored. “Your brain loses its tolerance for boredom and lack of stimuli which means when it comes time to do deep work it’s going to have a hard time staying focused,” says Newport. Improving your ability to focus means training your brain to be a little bored. Try it next time you’re standing in the line at a bank. Reduce the urge to whip out your phone and be ok with being a little bit bored.
Make your meditation productive
Train your brain to focus by thinking of a single problem that you want to solve and hold that problem in your mind for a set period of time. Newport says this works best if you go for a walk. Just as in mindful meditation, when you see your mind wandering from the problem, notice it and bring your mind back to the problem that you’re working on.
Adopt a zero-tolerance policy
When you’re engaged in deep work, don’t allow for distractions. Even glancing briefly at your inbox will reduce your cognitive capacity to focus.
Prepare for deep work
Just as a long-distance runner stretches her muscles before a run, you may need to adopt some rituals to prepare for deep work. Your deep-work ritual could be as simple as cleaning off your desk and hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door — anything that tells your brain that it’s time to shut off the rest of the world and focus on the task at hand.
Know the outcome
Having a fixed outcome that you’re striving for lets your brain know what it’s supposed to be working on and will pool its resources towards that task.
Use the 20% rule
Whatever deadline you set for yourself, cut it by 20 percent. “Now you have to scramble with as much intensity to get this thing done,” says Newport. Adding a sense of urgency to the task is like doing interval training for your mind. It forces you to work just a little bit harder.