There’s the endless onslaught of emails, the incessant text messages, the unending Slack conversations, non-stop phone calls, and a calendar packed full of meetings. Today’s world of constant communication means a trend towards split focus, unceasing interruptions and continual distractions. To make things worse, mobile technology means that there is no longer the built-in limit of physical workplace or traditional work hours – the interruptions continue at home and around the clock. It’s little wonder that according to Amir Salihefendic, CEO of Doist, there is growing data that all the distraction, “makes it hard to focus, drains employees’ mental resources, and generally makes it more difficult to make meaningful progress on work.”
So how do we accomplish meaningful progress and produce the kind of quality results that come from focus and concentration? According to author and professor Cal Newport, the answer is deep work. Author of the Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller, Deep Work, Newport writes that the ability to focus is becoming an increasingly rare and valuable skill in the modern business world. Deep work is the ability to focus on challenging tasks such that we produce quality results in less time, while experiencing a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
After reading authors like Cal Newport and several others, here’s my top three picks for building focus and building the ability to work deeply:
Identify and Batch
Identify which parts of your work require deep focus and which do not. Prioritize the work that requires distraction-free concentration, and batch this work into longer, uninterrupted stretches of time. Creating longer chunks of time to focus is important because switching tasks tends to split our attention and drain our focus.
Deep work is hard. Like mastering any skill, deliberate practice is critical. This is the type of practice is methodical, purposeful and structured. It’s hard, but remember that you can leverage the power of habit to your advantage. The more we focus on focus, the more focus we develop.
Prioritize, Act and Measure
Begin by working towards a small number of highly critical goals (the very act of identifying these goals helps us strengthen our focus in and of itself.) Identify the behaviors and actions that will drive progress towards these goals, and take focused action. Track the actions you’ve taken and measure the results to hold yourself accountable for your own focus and productivity.
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