Distractions are everywhere — there’s the seemingly never-ending influx of emails, the 24/7 news cycle pumping out viral soundbites, notifications that someone just commented on your recent Instagram Story, your smartwatch reminding you that it is time you get up and go for a walk…
With all these things fighting for our attention, it’s a daily struggle to buckle down, focus and handle the things that require our undivided attention. That focus, however hard to find, is necessary, especially at a PR agency. It’s called “monotasking,” and it’s the exact opposite of its wrongfully praised counterpart, multitasking.
Monotasking is what helps you get into Deep Work. Defined by the renowned Georgetown University author and computer science professor, Cal Newport, Deep Work is “professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
When your attention is constantly under siege by a deluge of distractors, it prevents you from getting into your Deep Work state and tackling your most intellectually tasking tasks to the best of your abilities. Here you’ll find a few tips on how to build your Deep Work practice and accomplish your goals more efficiently:
- Location: Do you work in a communal setting that has a lot of distractions? See if you can book a conference room or find a quiet corner of the office to limit the number of interruptions. If there isn’t space for you to get away from distractions, get some noise-canceling headphones and a “deep focus” playlist that will help you get your mind stayed tuned in to the task at hand.
- Duration: Outline strict periods of time throughout your workday where you can incorporate a Deep Work state. That means pre-determining blocks of time where you isolate yourself from distractions to focus on the task at hand and actually block those times in your calendar so that you can stick to your new Deep Work routine.
- Structure: Set guidelines for what your Deep Work mode looks like to you. Do you put your phone in a drawer or on airplane mode? Will you allow yourself to go on the internet or just to specific sites? Are you able to get up in the middle of your session to grab a snack? How will you define the success of your Deep Work session (starting that press release, get through that new business deck, etc.) Whatever your terms end up being, make them explicit, and make them work for you.
- Requirements: It will take some practice before you get the hang of what works for your Deep Work mode, but after a few sessions, you will be able to focus in on what helps. Whether it is a particular type of music, a specific candle you light or your favorite beverage. Have everything you think you’ll need onhand before starting your Deep Work.
In addition to your Deep Work sessions, how you spend your downtime is equally as important. Downtime replenishes our ability to practice Deep Work, so take a 10-minute walk aroudn the block, find a peaceful space to meditate, grab a snack, chat with a coworker or find another activity that fills up your tank. Try to steer clear of social media, however, as it doesn’t allow for your mind to rest. Step away from your computer and be present in the moment.
Getting into Deep Work can be difficult at first, but if a publicist in a busy Los Angeles PR agency can do it, you can, too. Want to learn more about Deep Work? Check out Cal Newport’s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
– Amanda Lencina