This month, Helen Clark, our UX/Interaction Design Lead shared her learnings on ‘Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World’ from Cal Newport’s book of the same title.
Deep work is where the magic happens - this is the actual work we are all employed to do; the activity that pushes our minds, creates new value, improves our skills and is hard to replicate. To get into the deep work zone try these top tips:
Allow your brain time to be bored
It might sound counter-intuitive, but allowing yourself to be bored increases your capacity to focus. Newport writes, “To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.”
Next time you're sat in a doctor's waiting room or idly stood waiting for a train, resist the urge to sneak a peek at your smartphone and just embrace the nothingness.
Minimise distractions and focus on one task
Did you know the average person checks their email 28 times per day?
Oooh, shiny thing!
Sorry, where was I?
In our current hyper-connected state; with smartphone notifications, slack channel updates and bustling email inboxes, it's difficult to prioritise the important work.
Newport tells us that concentrating on a single task will lead to increased productivity but warns that "efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.”
Scale back that screen time people!
Cut back on shallow work
It might feel like your are achieving great things when you tick off those to-dos on your task list but are you really tackling the important work when you do this? Having absolute clarity about the work that matters helps to clarify in your mind the work that does not matter.
This clarity effects all of us because of the opportunity cost incurred when we focus on the little tasks. After all, if you focus on low-impact activities, you're eating into time that could be spent working on higher-impact activities.
Newport reminds us that Tim Ferriss once wrote: “Develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don’t, you’ll never find time for the life-changing big things.”
Deep Work is a great reminder that in a modern economy where humans will face increased competition from automation, bots and A.I., the real competitive advantage humans have is their ability to focus and deliver deep work. Our ability to service this deep work is also challenged by the very technologies that threaten to take away the low-impact repetitive work that so many of us are comfortable falling in to. Newport's book offers some sensible guidance on how we can overcome the day-to-day distractions and train ourselves to be more focused, more productive and more creative individuals.
If you need help focusing and getting stuck into a high-impact project, speak to Helen Clark about arranging a design thinking session to start solving your biggest product or service challenges.