Have you ever had one of those days when you were like a stick-shift car? Back and forth, herky-jerky...
My first stick-shift was an old pickup truck and a summer job allowed me to deliver engine parts to local garages. I was a terrible driver and I was lucky that I wasn't fired- it was that bad.
Work can feel like this too- back and forth, tossing and turning from one thing to the next. The modern workplace is built to chop up our day into small blocks of time. The problem is that the boundaries of our "blocks" are fuzzy. Every "got a minute" takes us away from our ability to focus.
When our days are filled with lots of interruptions, it's very hard to get our heads back to a focused state. It can take several minutes to refocus after being interrupted. Meetings are much the same, draining our energy and taking up an awful lot of time.
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Too many interruptions (and/or meetings) can leave your head spinning and your day totally wrecked. These work-killers are nothing more than "noise", creating a slow hum of displeasure in the day. With each interruption, you lose your head of steam and become more and more irritated. By the time you leave, you are frustrated and can feel defeated.
To counteract these pesky bugs, one thing is necessary: deep work. Deep work is the ability to focus, without interruption, on meaningful and challenging tasks for a prolonged period of time.
Check out this post about how deep work can help clear your head and further expand your ability to do deep work. The question remains- how much deep work do you need in order for your day to feel good? After all, most of us can't afford an entire afternoon alone in an office, doing deep work.
An hour without interruption might be satisfying enough. Imagine a day with just two blocks of uninterrupted time? As you begin to experience time-focused periods of your day, you'll begin to notice something.
You'll notice that you're not as frustrated when the interruptions do come along. This is because you know that you've already tasted "the good stuff" (of uninterrupted work) and you desire it even more for the rest of your day or later in the week. Having a block or two of deep work under your belt helps to "absorb" these interruptions.
Let me share a personal story to help make this point.
I was feeling particularly disjointed a few weeks ago. I knew that this was the result of not scheduling several hours of focused (i.e. "deep") work. As a person of faith, I try to see my work as part of my relationship with God. As such, I turned to prayer in order to recalibrate my day.
My prayer was very, very simple, "Lord, just give me the courage to do deep work, if even for a briefer time than I would like." I just needed to get into the zone and then all would be well. No more distractions, just focused and deep work.
This turned out to be exactly what I needed and my day went much better. I turned off the noise in my head and the noise around me using an app called Self Control. This forced me to write, to create and to ultimately finish a project that was in need of closure. When all was said and done, I felt great.
My day was rescued because I was able to dial back the noise, focus and put my head down in order to work. Can you relate?
For Follow Up
If you look back on the past week, can you name a day when you went home and felt as if you got absolutely nothing done? As you look forward to the week ahead, where can you schedule blocks of deep work when no one and nothing will be able to interrupt you? Once you schedule these blocks, you'll be in the zone and feel great about it!