An ability to focus and work deeply for an extended period is the holy grail for productivity.
Cal Newport threw down this challenge in his enjoyable book, Deep Work. He defines deep work as: “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.” He adds “These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate.”
However, it’s difficult to enter this state without getting distracted by colleagues, the lure of social media, the distracting dings from mobile devices and our own tendencies to procrastinate.
Here are three different approaches and cultivate this state faster:
Meditation is a useful practice for clearing your mind, learning how to deal with stress and practicing the art of focus.
Meditation has many variations, but the most simple practice involves focusing on inhaling and exhaling for five, 10 or 20 minutes.
Now the bad news: Meditation demands extended practice to get results. And many teachers will tell you not to expect results!
If that sounds like a conundrum, consider the online app Headspace, which offers guided meditations aimed at encouraging focus.
There’s something soothing about a repetitive sound drawn out over time.
If you’re feeling anxious about a troublesome project, find an album on Spotify of instrumental or ambient music, put on your headphones and turn up the volume.
Also check out Brain.FM playing melodies for the brain carefully crafted to encourage focus, relaxation and even sleep.
Have you ever started working on a difficult project then 15 minutes into it you decide you need to research a new Excel trick, check out a friend on Facebook or respond to a text a message?
According to the Freedom.com website, multitasking is “40% less productive” than single tasking.
Use Freedom.com app to shut off internet access for predetermined periods like 30 or 60 minutes and work on one thing, without internet access.
Alternatively if going offline feels too hardcore, Freedom can block access to certain sites like Twitter or Facebook.