I am currently reading a book by Cal Newport called “Deep Work”. As far a business books go, it is a pretty good read with a few simple concepts that, if applied, can help you achieve/learn/conquer/progress in pretty much anything you set your mind to. In a nutshell, if you want to “Learn complicated things quickly” and really get good at whatever you are working on, you need to spend uninterrupted time, dedicated to that one thing.
Simple, right? Well, not quite. You see, we live in an age where we have the World at our fingertips. At any moment we can pick up a relatively small device that is made from some glass and metal and quite literally connect with anyone, anywhere in the World. Astounding!
That is of course until you need to get some actual work done. Then one can quite quickly see how enslaved you can be to those endorphin-inducing notifications that your beloved device sends out ever so often.
The concepts in Cal Newport’s book are not revolutionary. In fact, they are rather simple and quite obvious. That is exactly why I think, if applied, these concepts will work really well for me.
I currently live in a 3 bedroom apartment, with 3 adults a 4-year-old
little “big” boy and a rather little dog(newly added). 4 of those things(me being one of them) I mentioned are at home most of the day, every day. This includes during conventional ‘work hours’. Needless to say, having moments of perfect silence and solitude, is quite a luxury.
In the book, the author writes about the importance of having uninterrupted time alone. This concept really resonated with me. Partly because it makes sense and as obvious as is sounds, when compared to how much time I spent in an uninterrupted, distraction-free state, I fell short miserably.
It takes around 25 minutes to refocus on a task once you have been interrupted. Just let that sink in for a bit
You see, for quite some time I have been a little frustrated with my time and how to manage it. Generally, I have a lot of things I want to learn, do, explore and achieve. I also find that I was not fully satisfied with the work I was pushing out and certainly felt that I never had enough time to properly finish certain tasks. When I read that “Multitasking” is actually quite detrimental to the quality of your work and that focusing solely on one task at a time for a prolonged period is far better in terms of quality and efficiency, I was thrilled.
It was as if I could see a version of myself, behind my laptop. Constantly switching between browser tabs, website, and messaging apps. As soon as I was just getting somewhere with the next video I was creating: “Ping”, a new message. Better reply to the message as quickly as I can so I can get back to my video. Great, done. Oh yes, let me just really quickly reply to that one customer who needs their support questions answered. Sure, it can wait but I am sort of in between tasks now.
Apparently, it takes around 25 minutes to refocus on a task once you have been interrupted. Just let that sink in for a bit…
In my experience. Multitasking(or switching tasks before one task is finished) and leaving yourself open to being easily interrupted creates an environment where it takes you much, much more time to finish your work, at a quality that you are happy with.
I speak of work but this can be applied to other areas like learning a new skill or language for example.
Waking up early and deep diving my work was inspired by Ryan Carson, founder of Treehouse (first every online resource that taught me to code).
How to Deep Dive
Below is a list of things I have started doing that has helped me get more focused and banging out those tasks on todoist faster than you can say “Time to get things done.”
- Wake up at 04:30 am. Have a shower. Make Coffee. Start work at 05:00am(ish). Yikes!
- Work on one task at a time, with ninja-like focus. This takes practice.
- Remove any distractions. Mute notifications and get rid of anything that will draw your attention away from your task at hand.
- Tackle, the biggest, ugliest task on your to-do list first. You will know which this is because you will feel relieved once it is done.
- Move on to the next task. Aim to leave the easier more ‘shallow’ tasks for later in the day.
- Work in 25-minute sprints with 5-minute breaks. Known as the Pomodoro technique.
- Aim to do no more then 3-5 larger tasks on your to do list. I aim for 3 big tasks per day and have some bonus less urgent/important tasks on there too.
I have been able to get more work done, at a better quality and actually have more time for myself and family in the afternoon. By waking up early and working on my major to do’s first. I am able to spend my most creative energy in a more interruption-free environment (everyone is still sleeping😴) meaning that my tasks get done a lot quicker.
Most of the time, the act of just getting started on that ‘big’ to do item and then having enough time to really chew on it, is all you need to get it done. When we start feeling overwhelmed because we do not know where to start or what to do next, it is much more comforting to quickly reply to that email or do some admin than to actually do the work that really moves our work forward.
By 8 am or 9 am, half of my work day is done, most of my ‘big’ to-do tasks are done. I feel relieved and have more time in the late afternoon to spend time with my family, passion projects or whatever really 😃
How do you get things done?
So, how do you get things done? I would love to hear more about any tips, tricks, hacks or strategies that you use to make a difference in your life.
Feel free to leave a comment below!
UPDATE – I should probably get to bed.
At the moment I was about to tweet this blog post out, I see the below tweet from ToDoist.
Note – Sleep is also really important in getting Deep Work done.