It might seem like a silly question, but it’s one that’s got us thinking a LOT lately – how do we work and is it the best way?
Stick with us on this one, as we’re going to pack a lot of information into here (all of which you’ll be able to implement ASAP and see the results almost just as quickly!).
A common theme we’ve been uncovering over our last half-dozen or so books we’ve read (check out our 2021 book list and the start of our 2022 list for details!) is that making a solid effort to work out your brain – like you would work out your biceps at the gym – but in the attention aspect, can completely change the game for your attention span.
Being able to keep your focus free from distractions for any length of time is a win, but really training it so that you can get at least 90-minutes of uninterrupted focus time is ideal. It might sound like a long time, but when you look at your list of goals and compare it to how much time you are WASTING each day, 90 minutes doesn’t look so bad, does it? Now, this isn’t to say you have to do 90 minutes. If all you can do at the beginning is 20 solid minutes of uninterrupted focus time – it’s a win.
Now, in “The One Thing“, its main focus is obvious – not only just focusing your efforts but focusing all of your efforts towards one goal. It still requires mental training to keep focused on that individual goal, and a lot of freaking willpower to avoid all other distractions! If you’re lucky enough to be in a position where this is something that is actionable – we say go for it! For the rest of us who have a few things on our plates and where the sole focus of one thing is maybe a bit outside of our reach at this time, we’ve got some other suggestions…
While thoroughly enjoying “A Life of Productivity” (really, how could we not?! An entire book on productivity? YES PLEASE!), this is where the “get your brain’s focus reps in like you do your muscles at the gym” analogy came from, and we are HERE for it! Shutting our phones to “Do not disturb” and desktop notifications off for certain chunks of time while we have dedicated focus time has been a welcomed adjustment. Not only that but structuring our days to get our “focus work” in when we have the most energy and attention stamina has already solidified itself into our daily routine. While we all work in different ways and peak at different times throughout the day, learning to plan your most important work at the optimal time is something we should all strive to do – every.damn.day.
We have 2 other fantastic take-aways from this read (there are way more than 2, but we’ll share them more another time). The first is to create a “Procrastination List”; a list of tasks that are still valuable, so when you feel the need to put off your task-at-hand, you’re still getting some real work done! It’s a nice little trick to play on your mind. Secondly, is to schedule an hour or so for “maintenance tasks” each week. We renamed this “Upkeep Tasks” as it just sounded less mundane, but it includes things like clearing our inboxes, uploading any receipts, e-filing, paper filing, tidying the office, and a few other little housekeeping items. We schedule this for an hour every Friday afternoon so that if anything comes up during the week that falls into one of those categories, we just add it to the list and it gets done then. We suggest scheduling some time for these tasks for yourself, as it frees up brain space for other things during the week – and doesn’t allow for the “little things” to continuously pile up for multiple months!
At the root of it all, Deep Work continues to prove that scheduling and planning deep work is backed by decades’ worth of science and proof. Proof by people who have, and continued to, give themselves to deep work and live and breathe it. People who have accomplished wondrous achievements that may have otherwise not been accomplished. Again, this book delivers so much more than this snapshot, so we highly recommend adding it to your list.
So what are we getting at?
We challenge you to open up your calendar for this week and next and find 3-4 spots where you can block out 60-90 minutes. Next, plan a 30-minute meeting with yourself before your first focus session to figure out what is most important to you RIGHT NOW and what needs to happen to achieve it, or at least make the needle move significantly. During those sessions, all other distractions have to go away. Your sole purpose for that scheduled time is to do the work needed to get closer to your goal. If that means locking yourself in another room or even booking yourself into a hotel room, then so be it. You will find that you will be tired after the focus session (that’s how we refer to it) because you were working your brain in a way it likely hasn’t been worked before. You keep pulling your attention and focus back to the task at hand and work through it. It’s not easy, but that’s also why a lot of people don’t do it and just coast throughout life.
There are definitely extremes of this, where people will go for weeks at a time to somewhere secluded to work on whatever their project is, but away and free from all distractions. We prefer to have 2-3 focus sessions per week, each at 90 minutes. This seems to be the sweet spot for us in that we can make significant headway on a project or goal without letting our client’s work suffer.
That just goes to show how much time we waste during the day – if we can find 90 minutes away from “work” – what the heck were we doing each day?!
It’s also very possible you’ve been doing a variation of this for a while but never knew the actual term for it or you were doing it half-heartedly. Just like when you set goals that you believe are out of reach and that doubt lurks at the bottom, we challenge you to really attempt focus work. Don’t cancel your focus work time as you’ve scheduled in that spot in your calendar for a reason. Perhaps you picked a time where you don’t have many meetings surrounding it so you won’t have meeting prep in your mind. Maybe it’s when your kids are at school so the house is quiet. Or perhaps you scheduled it for the first thing you do that day so that you can give it all it deserves. Find what works for you – we’re all different so we won’t tell you WHEN to schedule it – just that you NEED to.
You might be surprised at what you can achieve in that time…