Focus is the superpower of the 21st century. Those who have optimized focus get more done in less time and accelerate far quicker towards their dreams. However, it necessitates ‘Deep Work’, a term coined by professor and author Cal Newport, which means an extended period spent focused on one activity with no distraction.
According to Newport, there are two fundamental skills that anyone who wishes to prosper in the current economic climate should be able to perform: 1) Quickly mastering difficult concepts, and 2) Producing at an elite level of quality and speed. And in order to do both, you must be able to focus on a single task for an extended length of time without getting sidetracked.
The Dangers of Task Switching
When we switch attention to a new task, we might feel like we are getting more done in less time. However, the reality is that it takes time and effort for our brains to upload the context required to carry out a new activity.
When we multitask, we are constantly switching back and forth between tasks. This means our brain is constantly loading, unloading and uploading complex context, wasting our brain power and diminishing our mental performance.
Bruce Lee famously said, “concentration is the root of all higher abilities in man.” In today’s fast-paced world filled with never-ending emails, texts, and social media interactions, this phrase rings even more true. It’s never been harder to focus. Every single day, a million things pull our attention in different directions.
Feeling Exhausted Without Getting Anything Done?
Despite our best attempt to stay on track, we can’t help but be easily distracted and get buried in overflowing information. We check emails, scroll social media feeds, click on links along the way, respond to a multitude of text messages, and attend to multiple requests from various parties.
At the end of a long day, we feel exhausted, stressed, disappointed, and defeated and we never get around to finishing the truly important tasks.
Cultivating our ability to focus on just one task is a necessary skill to make a breakthrough at work. The human brain simply isn’t designed for multitasking! In fact, this seemingly innocent habit is the #1 enemy of mental performance, decision-making, and even creativity.
Scheduling Time for Deep Work
Schedule time for deep work, turn off your notifications and block your calendar. Set aside time that’s dedicated to finishing a single important task. There are apps that can help you with this but I personally love the pomodoro technique. I set a timer and work for 25 minutes straight, then I rest for 5 minutes if I have to. Oftentimes, I don’t actually rest as I already find myself deep in the flow at this point.
The deep flow state is so magical and so personally, I prefer to keep going and just work until the task is done. This is when I feel so in the zone, so focused and energized yet absolutely calm. New ideas pop up and the work just seems to happen seamlessly without effort. Normally I can keep going for 2 hours and then, my brain needs space to unload all that information.
I usually schedule either my meditation practice or a calisthenics session depending on how much time I have. Then, I’ll have one or two more sessions of deep work and I’m done. The human brain can only do so much focused work in a day so don’t overtax yourself!
Train your brain to focus and achieve peak performance at work. Grab a copy of my book Mental Rockstar for a step-by-step guide to increasing productivity, developing mental toughness and building a thriving career. Better yet, boost your team’s performance by scheduling an online event via Mental Rockstar Academy Virtual Events.