The Power of Deep Work

Unlock the Power of Deep Work: The Art of Unwavering Attention

Imagine diving into a pool of concentration where the distractions and the worries of the real world fade away! This pool of concentration is “Deep Work”.

Have you ever found yourself melting time away and completely losing yourself in the flow of tasks?

In the realm of deep work, productivity, and creativity peak as our cognitive capabilities are focused on a single task

When we switch between tasks, an attention residue is left in our minds, increasing the cognitive load. Deep Work is where we use our maximum cognitive capabilities by focusing on a single task.

Bill Gates spoke about how he used deep work to program the first version of Basic in just eight weeks and JK Rowling used the same to complete the final book of Harry Potter series in 2007.

Flow State: 

Deep Work often induces a flow state in which we are completely immersed in the activity. It can be addictive! When we are in the flow state, our brain releases dopamine which enables a positive feedback look seeking more deep work.

Flow state is characterized by deep engagement, focused attention, and heightened enjoyment.

Crazy right?

How to practice Deep Work?

Focus Friendly Environment:

How do you identify distractions?

“Distractions are like a parasite to the mind,

If you don’t kill distraction, 

Distraction will kill your dreams”

  • Self-Awareness: It’s important to be aware of your thoughts and behaviors throughout the day and identify the time, location, people, or behavior that pushes your mind to wander.
  • Be more mindful of your Habit Loop and break free: Every action has a trigger or a cue that makes us to act on it. Beware of your habits loops so you get better at identifying distractions.

How to create a focus-friendly environment?

  • Evaluate your workspace: Is your workspace organized, clean, silent, and well-lit? Spend some time sorting your workspace to have maximum focus and minimum distractions. Gretchen Rubin, the author of the book “The Happiness Project”, mentions that it is important to have a sacred space free from clutter and distractions
  • Ergonomic setup: Are you feeling comfortable in your workspace and do you have everything you need with you to last through the focus period?
  • Personalize the ambiance: Make sure the ambiance is set up for focus and add elements in your workspace that add to your focus and productivity.
  • Digital Distractions: Inform the people who might call you about your focus time so they won’t disturb you during these hours and keep your phone away so you are focused.

Building Rituals and Routines: 

Imagine your brain being a train conductor, and routines and rituals are like the railway tracks that guide it along the right path. Such an established pattern of habits gives our brain a sense of calm and stability, allowing it to focus more effectively without anxiety or stress.

And like a pre-race ritual for an athlete, routines, and rituals can signal to your brain that it’s time to shift gears and enter focused mode. A quick meditation, a soothing playlist, or a quick exercise session – these simple acts can prime your mind to tackle the tasks at hand.

To Practice:

  • Start with this everyday morning for a week: Exercise, Journal and Meditate

Scheduling a Deep Work Ritual:

  • Deep Work Space
  • Blocking out deep work time in our schedule – Everyday early morning or late evening. Whichever time works for us!
  • Ritualistic Pre-Work routine to prepare our minds for deep focus – Simple habits that act as mental cues and prepare our minds for deep focus.
  • Realistic Time limits – Setting specific durations of time (25-90 mins) for our deep work
  • Keep Practicing and experimenting!

What is Attention Training?

“Imagine your mind as a wild stallion, eager to wander off and explore. Attention training is like saddling up that stallion and teaching it to respond to your commands”

“Attention training is like flexing your mental muscles” 

Just like lifting weights strengthens your arms, attention-training exercises strengthen your brain’s ability to focus and concentrate

How to train our attention:

  • Meditation: Meditation is a habit that can do wonders for our focus and attention spans
  • Mindfulness – Focus on the present: Focusing on the present requires us to avoid any thoughts of the past and the worries of the future. This is critical for deep work.
  • Distraction-free Work Space: Create a workspace where there are fewer distractions!
  • Eat and sleep properly: Eating healthy and getting enough sleep is a prerequisite for a healthy mind which is required for attention.
  • Attention Training Apps and Games: 
    • Lumosity – Attention training games
    • Peak Peak 
    • Brain HQ
    • Elevate
    • Brain Yoga

Schedule Distraction Periods:

Our minds need their time to explore and wander and we should schedule distraction periods to allow this.

Also, it’s impossible to brute force our minds into periods of deep work without a break. Let your brains relax and recharge for a while!

Important points to note:

  • Breaks are required to avoid burnout and maintain balance
  • Allowing distraction times can reduce stress and bring a more positive and motivating mindset.
  • Set limits to your distraction periods so you don’t get bogged down with other activities
  • Incorporate variety in the distractions
  • Use the distraction time to reconnect with yourself and the world around you.

Concentration techniques: Incorporate focus enhancing Habits into your daily schedule:

There are so many concentration techniques out there for us to try and experiment with. The effectiveness of each method would vary from person to person and hence it’s important to experiment with them and learn from it.

Power Naps:

Tony Schwartz, author of “The Power of Full Engagement,” advocates the use of “power naps” to combat mental fatigue and to improve focus. They are very effective in restoring our energy levels and giving us mental stamina to tackle the day’s work.

Pomodoro Technique:

The Pomodoro Technique involves taking a short break every 25 minutes of focused work to counter mental fatigue and maintain concentration and focus.

Focus Apps:

There are many focus apps online and one can explore them to further guide you in dealing with digital distractions and more.

Here are my favorite focus apps:

  • Forest App: You can set the time limit and the app will grow a tree during your focus time. You can also pay a subscription and plant real trees somewhere in this world.
  • The Beeminder App: The Beeminder app sets a pricetag on our daily goal and hence giving us a financial incentive to work on our goals.

Practice Digital Detox:

In today’s hyper-connected world, we have endless digital stimuli competing for our attention. This has affected the human attention span and focus negatively. Here’s where digital detox comes in.

What is Digital Detox?

Digital Detox is a conscious decision to step back and give our mind and body a break from the constant barrage of digital stimuli.

Here’s how to get started with digital Detox:

  • Identify your triggers: What triggers you to use digital devices?
  • Start very small and build on it: When you are making a change, take small steps to reach there.
  • Find an alternative: Reconnect with yourself and explore other habits that bring you joy or feed your curiosity and keep you engaged!

Keep Practising!

“Practise makes anything perfect!’

Just like physical training, mental training also requires consistency so our brain gets used to the prolonged focus times.

Start small and keep improving as you practice regularly.

Take it easy!

While progress requires us to get out of our comfort zone and find ways to be more focused and disciplined, it’s also important to take it easy at times. 

Life is a whirlwind of ups and downs, and our minds can sometimes get caught up in the turbulence

As humans, we are prone to stress, anxiety, and fatigue and these affect our mind’s ability to focus.

But every storm can be tamed! All you need is good food, sleep, and exercise to recharge your batteries and get back n track.


Final Note: Medical Conditions related to focus:

If you find it hard to focus even after improving your lifestyle and practising deep work, then you can maybe explore these possible underlying medical conditions that could lead to reduced focus.

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Brain injuries

Additional Section: Mindful Time Management:

While we master the art of focus, it is also important to be productive and mindful of where we spend our time. Here are a few mindful time management techniques for you to follow:

  • 80-20 Rule: 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. This implies that we need to focus on the most important tasks first before spending too much of our time on low-value tasks
  • The Eisenhower Matrix: This matrix allows us to prioritize our tasks based on importance and urgency. When you evaluate a work based on these two factors, it becomes easier for you to prioritize and work on them.

AUTHOR SECTION

Sai Subramaniam The digital Hope

Written by Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over 5 years of experience writing about mental health and productivity. He shares his thoughts about love, life, and business in this blog. His goal is to help people become the best version of themselves and is guided by experts in the psychology and mental health field to help educate everyone about lifestyle and productivity

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