I am a victim of the connected environment. Even while writing this article, I looked at email, checked my calendar, answered a text message, talked to my son on the phone, talked to my wife about a possible June trip, and even messed with StumbleUpon.com. Are you kidding me?
My friend and editor, Gregg Hinthorn, recently recommend a book called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. He said, “Of all the business books I’ve read, this book is the one that inspired me to change how I do my work.”
With such a strong recommendation from a trusted friend, how could I not download the book on Audible? I like listening to business books while I am working out or driving. I seem most open to new ideas during these two activities, even though the irony is not lost on me.
The book’s premise is simple. To create, you need to concentrate.
This was a great reminder. I used to dedicate time to focus on tasks. Now I allow myself to be constantly distracted. I changed, and not for the better. My creative work is suffering.
8 Hours Work Done in 4
Back in the days of unconnected personal computers, pink telephone message slips, cigarette smoke in the office and first generation spreadsheets and word processors, I managed people and programmed. It was my first startup, and I was responsible for building product, teaching, installing product and supporting customers. I had a team of over 100 people at the time. Life was a blur.
I was a manager but also enjoyed designing and building user interfaces for our products. To get the creative work done, I needed to completely isolate myself. I would head to the office at 3 a.m. so no one would bother me. No distractions. I knew I had four hours of uninterrupted time. No one to call, no one calling me, and no one to talk to in the office. I was totally focused on creating great product.
Although I hated the thought of getting up at 2:30 a.m., I loved the four hours of uninterrupted concentration. By the time the first person showed up at the office, I felt like I had gotten eight hours of work done. I was totally fulfilled.
Before the Baby Cries
When I started writing this blog in March 2015, I made it a point to set a block of time each day to write. Two hours of writing. I convinced myself that it didn’t matter if I wrote a sentence or 2,000 words. I would honor this time. It worked. Then I stopped doing it.
I allowed myself to fall victim to the distractions. My production plummeted. I went back to my old habit of only being creative when I had a hard deadline. I once said, “I can’t seem to find the time to write. There is just too much going on in my life.”
Gregg said, “I’m not concerned. The blog due date is the crying baby in the corner of the room. Eventually, you have to give it your full attention.”
He is right. But this isn’t the best way to create as I was reminded by the book Deep Work.
My Deep Work Plan
I need to create a plan and stick to it. Deep Work calls it a depth ritual. I had a depth ritual years ago when I needed to design a user interface. Now I need to do it to write. I must remember the rewards are great. Doing deep work gives me meaning and fulfillment. So here is my plan.
- Set aside a block of time on my calendar at the beginning of each week to write.
- Honor the time by eliminating all distractions.
- Close the office door.
- Shut off the phone.
- Avoid checking email.
- Pray and meditate to start the session.
- Ask God to quiet my mind.
- Address a topic which I captured in my continuing ideas folder.
- Meditate on it and write down my thoughts.
- Think of the story by walking through why I thought the topic was important to entrepreneurs in the first place.
- Write the story.
- Edit the story and send it to my editor.
- If there is still time remaining, go to step eight and write some more.
Writing is deep work. Deep work is the act of focusing without distractions on a cognitively demanding task. The time has come.
Give deep work a try. I’ll give you an update in a few weeks to tell you how it is going. Hopefully, you’ll experience the same increase in productivity and overall effectiveness.
Thanks, Gregg, for the book recommendation. I am looking forward to how it changes my work life, too!
Also published on Medium.