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How many times do you check email throughout your work day? How about checking social media?
As a social girl with a lot of friends, I often end up on social media just answering questions that people have or liking a hundred cute baby pictures when I need a short break from work. It only takes a minute or two and it seems harmless, right?
In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport discusses how my constant email-checking could be crushing my productivity.
What is Deep Work?
Deep work is the ability to spend hours at a time focusing on a difficult task.
For example, if you're a writer, then your deep work would be writing. If you are an analyst, your deep work will be analyzing stuff.
It seems quite obvious what we need to do to make a difference in our careers (or side hustles) but we often interrupt our own workday with non-deep-work activities. Instead of blogging, us bloggers are scanning social media, click-bait websites and sending text messages to friends and family.
While it seems totally harmless, those activities can distract us from spending that focused time our brain needs to make progress on a difficult task.
Why Do We Need Deep Work?
Cal Newport's book dives into the idea that if people focused on strengthening their ability to do deep work and focus less on these shallow activities, we'd all be able to get more done in less time and do our most important work better.
That sounds like a win-win for everyone, right?
How Can Deep Work Enhance Our Life?
If you set aside more focused time during your work day, you would able to get more done. As a writer, you would be able to write more books one presumes would directly lead to making more sales. If you work for someone else then you would be able to turn around your deliverables faster and also tackle more difficult tasks faster and with greater accuracy.
How often do you take work home? When you focus on deep work, you increase your ability to get your work done during your work day.
Through out the book, Cal Newport discusses how he is able to publish more peer reviewed academic papers than other professors, and he really works after 5 p.M. The ability to do deep work can put you in a similar position where you no longer work those after hours shifts at night to catch up on work that you were not able to finish throughout the workday.
With those extra hours, you might actually be able to shut down your lap top when you get home (gasp!). You could spend that time having dinner with family, engaging in conversations with your close friends, or have extra time for self-care.
How To Get More Deep Work In Your Day?
Most of us have become incredibly attached to social media and our email boxes and our ability to do deep work and focus for long stretches of time has dwindled to next to nothing. With so many distractions are vying for your time it is difficult to sit down for 3 to 4 hours to focus on a demanding task so how do you get more of that deep work into your day?
Disconnect your internet while you are doing deep work
Sometimes you can't get around this and you absolutely must log on to the internet to get information or follow up with someone. Try to shut down the internet as much as possible. If you know you have to do reasearch. Do your research first and then print out any articles that you need. That way you can start spending longer stretches of time without clicking social media or clicking your email.
The ability to do deep work grows over time so the more you can train your brain to focus, the more successful you will become.
Time for attention restoration
While deep work sounds great, it's impossible to do deep work all the time. You have to take a mental break to restore your ability to do hard tasks. Rather than letting a distraction dictate when you take a break, schedule your break into your day.
That way you get to decide the optimal time to take a break from your work.
Create a shutdown ritual for the end of the day
At the end of the day, write down all of the activities you need to do later on in the week. Then take your list and compare them with your calendar to see when you'll have time for each activity. Finally, plan out the activities that you want to do the next day.
This practice will help you mentally close out "work mode" so you can enjoy the hours in the evening care-free knowing that you have all of your work-related responsibilities taken care of.
Change the way you communicate
Have you ever gone back and forth for 6-10 emails trying to find a good time to meet with a friend or colleague? I definitely have.
When you send email, make sure you guide the recipient in what they should do next. That way, you don't get a ton of email flooding your email box with unnecessary emails.
For example, instead of saying "let me know a time that works for you."
You could say, "I am available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 2PM. Let me know which of these days works for you or send over alternative dates and times." If you're super tech savvy, you can even set up an online calendar where people can choose their own dates and no further communication is needed on your part at all.
Sending more focused email with better directions can help you decrease the amount of back and forth you need - and results in less clutter in your email box.
We lose a lot of time in our work day simply by switching from one task to the next. The constant social media and email checking can seem pretty harmless, but when you add that time together - and then compare it to the time you could've been doing more important work you have to ask yourself: "Is it worth it?"
I'd definitely rather spend my time in deep work.
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Chantl founded Thrive Lounge to give women the kick in the pants they need (lovingly, of course) to uncomplicate their goals, stop making excuses, get productive and start living the life they always wanted. Her book, Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams, gives women a step-by-step guide to create, plan and achieve their grandest goals.