Distractions can be demoralizing. And tiring. Part of the problem with the modern workplace is the constant sense of multitasking—responding to emails while in a meeting, or keeping an eye on social media while working on a big project. It’s just not sustainable and leads to burnout.
So, refocus with the Deep Work theory. It’s based on the Cal Newport book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Basically, you have to retrain your brain, but you’ll be working more efficiently and reducing stress at work. Here’s a few ways to get started.
Time to focus. This is the most important step: setting up a time to get important projects done. Don’t check email, don’t answer the phone, forget Twitter. Focus. The best bet is to do this in intervals—try 90 minutes of Deep Work followed by a time to come up for air, so to speak, and return calls, check emails and such. And don’t forget to schedule breaks, meaning time away from work. Don’t feel guilty about getting up from your desk to take a walk to clear your head.
Get organized. The key to success is getting organized. This isn’t just any old to-do list, but one focused on priorities. What are the most important tasks? Which require the most focus? Put those at the top of your list. That’s your Deep Work. Get to the point where you can schedule out your day hour by hour. Too many people spend too much of their day on autopilot, jumping from task to task without really focusing on a single one. You’ll feel productive but won’t really get what you need to do done.
Be conscious of shallow work. So, what’s the opposite of deep work? Checking email, scheduling meetings, checking social media. It all feels like work, but it’s largely mindless. Set aside time for shallow work and figure out ways to reduce it, such as removing your email from listservs that clog your inbox and setting strict limits on meeting lengths. Once you’ve “drained the shallows,” as Newport puts it in his book, you’ll see how much time you’ve been wasting on busywork.