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Do we have time to really think these days?

By Victoria Brown

By Victoria Brown

Inspired by a book recommendation, Victoria looks at the benefits of 'Deep Work' and how it has already helped her work more efficiently.

Slightly off my normal topic of HR….or is it? For those of you that are connected with me on Linkedin you may have seen my recent post about a book that was recommended to me called ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport. I highly recommend popping it on your reading list…it really does make you think about the way in which you operate.

The concept behind the book is that by being able to work deeply will make you better at what you do. Work less and achieve more…. sounds good to me. The more I considered this, the more I realised just how bad I have become at being able to concentrate on tasks for a long period of time. I am constantly distracted by noise…. emails, social media, slack, WhatsApp, children, dogs, team members…. I then always default to my comfort zone of shallow work such as checking emails, responding to a general request on WhatsApp. They are the tasks that feel rewarding to get out of the way, but at the end of the day add very little value in the world.

The definition of deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. This really is a superpower and if we can commit to completing deep work then we will achieve amazing things. So, what do we need to do? Well firstly we need to remove the distraction, which I found the real challenge. I work in a fast- paced business, that has become used to receiving immediate responses from me (my fault). I’ve started to put my phone in another room when I am working on something that needs my undivided attention now. I used to have my emails pinging in the corner when I was trying to work on something offline…. I have turned the notifications off now and control how often I check my emails. Most importantly, is the environment in which you work. Our offices are both open plan and I love that, there is a great team atmosphere, collaboration is easier, and it is a fantastic way for people to grow and develop. In fact, I actually moved out of my office into the open area to free up more meeting space. However, it is not conducive of a space to concentrate on deep work. I will use my time working at home or find a quiet meeting room…. somewhere to not be disturbed during this period. I have clients that put ‘do not disturb’ on their door during this period of time or pop in their air pods. Whatever works for you, just find that quiet space. 

The next task that I have adopted….and I am still trying to master this art, is to make my deep work periods of time a routine in my day/week. To avoid distraction ideally, we should schedule our time for distraction, for example, we should utilise the internet or look at social media for time slots in the day and not at other times.

The suggestion that I admittedly struggle with the most is actually having an end’ to the workday. No after dinner email checks, no mental replays of conversations that you have had in the day…. shut down your work thinking completely. Why? Well according to research the downtime aids insights and helps us to recharge the energy needed to work deeply.

In conclusion the ability to work deeply must involve two goals;

  1.  Improving your ability to concentrate intensely
  2. Overcoming your desire for distraction

I have a long way to go before I have trained my mind to be really good at this, but I can already see a massive improvement in my performance. Have a go and let me know of any tips/ideas you have to remove the distraction.

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