Building up on yesterday’s idea of doing less, if we want to go one step further in order to maximize the quality of our work and our productive output, then we must create the right environment to achieve deep focus. In the modern world filled with distractions and temptations, the ability to stay focused can be your superpower.
Instead of putting more hours in your work, you must put more work in your hours. In order to do this, you must follow the footsteps of the most influential and most successful and influential figures in history and the contemporary world and carve out the time and the space to think deeply, away from the constant noise of everyday life. This is what computer science professor and bestselling author Cal Newport calls “deep work.” Newport defines the concept as: “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive abilities to their limit. The efforts create new value, improve your skills, and are hard to replicate.”
It’s best to take a step back and evaluate your daily tasks; you might be paying attention to short-term rewards instead of working towards your long-term goals. Don’t let the widespread social obsession toward the trivial sway you from your most important and fulfilling tasks.
Newport reveals that busyness has become a proxy for productivity for many people. And if you’re a “knowledge worker,” it’s even harder to figure out if you’re truly being productive — you might be spending north of 20 hours every week on a creative project and still feel you haven’t progressed at all. This is why deep work can play such a significant role in achieving better results. An essential takeaway from Newport’s book is the core idea that the more you schedule your creative time in a structured manner, the more unstructured creative work you can get done.
Like any other skill, performing focused work for long hours is something we can all practice and become better at over time. Of course, this might not be ideal for everyone, especially if your vocation involves cultivating interpersonal relationships or leading and managing multiple projects and teams. However, if working on creative pursuits is an integral part of your daily schedule, it’s crucial that you dedicate major chunks of uninterrupted time towards them. Always remember this key insight: the less you surround yourself with technology and distractions and the more time you spend thinking and working deeply, the easier it becomes to increase your creative output and achieve more meaningful results.