Deep Work: 5 Ways to Stay Focused in a Distracted World
OREANDA-NEWS. September 15, 2016. Does it feel harder than ever to stay on top of your job responsibilities as a marketer? Between all the emails, social channels, chats, and meetings, we're in constant communication during the work day.
Communication is a good thing. But what if this immediacy and always-on culture is hindering our ability to focus?
That's what Cal Newport eloquently argues and solves for in his latest book, Deep Work, an instant WSJ bestseller and Amazon’s Best Business Book for January 2016. We asked Cal to join us on the Marketing Cloudcast , the marketing podcast from Salesforce , because we know that marketers are some of the busiest professionals in a company.
Cal says most people have lost the ability to deeply focus — spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not realizing where the time went. In this episode, Cal explains how to transform your daily habits and cultivate a deep work ethic to be the best, most productive marketer you can be.You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Cal.
1. Prioritize daily time with zero distractions.
Constantly multitasking chats and emails with one ear listening to a webinar or meeting and three documents open that you're in the process of editing? Unfortunately, this probably means that you're less effective across the board. Cal stresses the importance of creating daily times with zero distractions. The more you do so, the more you'll see the value of that time.
When you're solving five small problems at once, you can't think of the bigger picture or maximize your creativity. By being available 24/7, we’ve become interruptible 24/7. Prioritize at least an hour or two daily as zero-distraction time, and try to increase it from there.
2. Understand that deep work is your most important work.
Understanding the difference between busy work and deep work is key. Cal explains that “deep work is what produces real value. Deep work is what allows you to improve your skills rapidly. Deep work is what allows you to produce things that are rare and valuable. And in the end, that’s really the key currency in our in our current economy. The stuff that you can do that’s really valuable and not easily replicable is the only thing that is going to move the needle.”
Deep work is probably a large part of what you were hired to do in your company, anyway: to think critically, solve big problems, create. Unfortunately, deep work is usually the exception, not the rule, so you'll have to make special time for it.
3. As you carve out more time for deep work, evangelize its benefits.
“Instead on focusing on what’s bad about distraction, focus on something that we’ve forgotten about — which is what’s so good about its opposite," says Cal.
When you explain to your boss why you need more distraction-free time, it's probably best to focus on the positives of deep work, not the negatives of having to attend too many useless meetings or field annoying chats. It’s easy to complain about yet another email getting in the way of your bigger tasks for the day, but that doesn’t help you keep that email from distracting you and now you’ve wasted even more time being frustrated. Instead, devise a game plan for how to handle those emails and carve out that uninterrupted time for yourself.
4. Leverage deep work to get promoted — and don't be afraid of a little boredom.
Cal shares, “Shallow work is what keeps you from getting fired, but deep work is what gets you promoted.”
Cal argues that it's all too common for today's professionals to keep up an appearance of busy-ness and working at all hours. But that doesn't help anyone get the real work done. He explains it can actually be harmful to be too busy and never have any downtime for critical thinking or creativity.
To think big, we need the time to think big. Filling your day with small tasks to look busy doesn’t move your career forward. Finding the balance between those little tasks and leaving time for deep thought is imperative.
5. Show some initiative and talk to your boss.
The deep work concept differs fundamentally from how many professionals spend their days. Not sure how to get started? “A lot of things that we think are just ingrained in our corporate cultures ... turn out to be quite fungible — but you have to have the right question to ask," advises Cal.
You can probably relate to the issues Cal describes and see the value of deep work. What stops many people is the fear of actually making a change — or the fear that raising these issues will be interpreted the wrong way by managers or others in the workplace. But if you don’t start the conversation, nothing will change.
Luckily, Cal says, every type of task has a place in the work day. Each individual should know his or her personal range of time dedicated to deep work and also time dedicated to "shallow" work, such as answering emails and attending meetings. Approaching your boss and opening up a conversation in a positive way will allow you and your colleagues to better maximize time to everyone's benefit.
Cal Newport shared many more practical insights for increasing productivity in the full episode. Get the complete scoop on how to craft a better workflow in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.