Work productivity is very important. It is always a must for every employee to make each minute of paid time worthwhile. After all, each minute of every hour is being paid for, so employers naturally want to get their money’s worth. However, this has become more elusive these days because of so many distractions, even while people are in the office. It is ironic to know that this is happening even with the advancement of technology and the invention of tools to make work easier. Shallow work, or the distracted and on-and-off multitasking activities of workers, is what they call it. From the name itself, it results in a completed day of work with not much achievement. Sadly, it has become the norm for many workers.
Introducing deep work
Deep work was coined by Georgetown University associate professor of Computer Science and self-help author, Cal Newport. He refers to it as a person’s ability to work without distraction or interruption and being in a state of concentration. Doing deep work allows a person to focus for a long period of time, pushing his cognitive capabilities to the limit.
This kind of work is said to result in increased productivity. According to Cal, those who are able to master it and apply it secure the competitive advantage at work. Since they are able to outstrip their colleagues through the quantity and quality of their output, they are able to get the raise and promotion. What makes deep work different from shallow work is that it challenges people to achieve something difficult and feel good afterwards.
However, if deep work feels and does good; then, why is it so elusive? Why is deep work so hard to achieve and is uncommon?
Why is deep work hard to achieve?
There are so many reasons behind deep work’s elusiveness but they can be rounded up into two major distractions. They are enumerated in the following:
- The expectation to respond. Because offices have adopted modern technology, it is now very easy for everyone to communicate with colleagues. This has led to the expectation for everyone to always respond to emails and chat messages immediately. When an employee is working on a specific task and receives a ping, he is compelled to read that and answer back. Every time this happens, he loses his concentration which leads to shallow work. According to studies, a person takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recuperate from every interruption. If this happens several times a day, then, workers accomplish almost nothing at work.
- As if the above matter is not distracting enough, people’s devices and gadgets add to the distractions. With social media being so addictive, studies reveal that 28% of a person’s workday is spent on social media apps. Also, these apps make people easily reachable and, therefore, add to the distractions when friends or family call them.
How is deep working done?
Doing deep work sounds simple as people only need to eliminate distractions and expectations which are the reasons for its elusiveness. However, it goes deeper than that and the following are a few steps to be done.
- Focus on what is important. Again, this is easier said than done. However, it is really important to look at everything that needs to be done and focus on them. People should learn how to weigh things and if they ever start getting distracted by social media, then, they can ask themselves if it is going to make them productive.
- Schedule tasks. This works every time. If there is anything specific to do, it has to be added to the calendar and described clearly with complete details. For example, ‘check market research results on October 25, 9 o’clock AM to 12 noon’. This way, there is a proper mindset and direction with what needs to be done.
- Just do it. People may already be familiar with the feeling of not wanting to start any task. This is, unfortunately, a natural feeling because our brains are not wired to be excited to embark on a task. This fact makes it all the more important for a person to remind himself to just start on a task. Deep work will never come unless one starts on a task.
- Keep yourself from being distracted. This is another easier-said-than-done kind of thing. It happens all the time. For example, as one gets to his computer to open a particular file, he receives a Slack message. It would be tempting to open that first. However, to do deep work, one should always remind himself that the task at hand should come first.
- Keep everything clear. This goes true for both a person’s working space and his mind. Firstly, one should try to de-clutter his workspace because this has a tremendous impact on concentration. The more orderly one’s workspace is, the more conducive it is for working. Also, keeping a clear mind with a mindset for work and productivity should be practiced. People can do this by meditation if there is time.
- Remember the feeling of being accomplished after deep work. Nothing is more rewarding than feeling like it has been a productive day. People can keep reminding themselves of this to help them focus and do deep work.
- End the day and rest. At the end of one’s work shift, it is important to really stop and call it a day. Work hours should be balanced with sufficient rest hours to let the body recuperate. If the body is overworked, it will not function well.
Doing deep work is not easy. It takes time to master it and practice is always the key. It will be challenging in the beginning but once people get used to it, it will just come naturally.