One of the great books I read last year was Cal Newport’s ‘Deep Focus‘.
If you’ve not yet read the book, there’s a useful article in the NYT that summarises his key arguments in an interview format. In essence, deep focus is simply about ensuring that you build in periods of focus into every day – without any distractions – electronic or otherwise – to put you off.
In a nutshell, the book suggests:
1. Actively schedule (and aggressively protect) this time carved out for deep work in your daily schedule.
2. Embrace boredom – don’t check your mobile out of habit when you have the chance. If you don’t, you’re simply training your brain to seek stimulii when challenged (which breaks your focus).
3. Quit social media – self-explanatory but I’d struggle with this myself. I’d suggest restricting it to scheduled times and batching time on it (with notifications turned off) may be a sensible compromise here.
4. ‘Drain the shallows’ – miminise the shallow (non-focused eg administrative) work you do and be very intentional about when you do it (and how you can become more efficient at it).
None of these are easy – or common – of course. But if you work consistently at it, as Newport says:
“Concentration is like a super power in most knowledge work pursuits. If you take the time to cultivate this power, you’ll never look back.”