Focus is Hard Work

Distractions killed productivity. The statistics on how long it takes us to switch from task to task is absolutely absurd . Focus, deep focus, is not just something that comes naturally even more so in an age when distractions are so ubiquitous. Deep work, as Cal Newport argues , is a skill that has to be learned. For me personally, sitting down for more than 30 minutes deeply focused on one task is difficult. As soon as I hit a lull in what I’m doing my immediate reaction is to do something else.

Did anyone text me? What’s Twitter saying right now? I could answer that email that is sitting in my inbox right now… Is it going to rain tomorrow? What’s the score to the Cardinals game?

These types of thoughts always come up when I lose focus. I used to think that it just took more discipline, which is partly true. But focus is a skill that we have to learn. We have to push through each day to actively say no to the distraction that’s just sitting there. Waiting. Waiting for a response from me.

Distractions are so destructive because they are the easy way out for the hard work of focus and creativity.

Focus takes hard work.

The more you train yourself to focus the better you will get at it. After reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work I have really tried to implement in my studies the discipline to not get distracted. I’ve seen over this short amount of time being able to sit for 30 minutes without the urge to be distracted has grown. Its still hard. When I do hit that lull I force myself to just sit there. Even if I’m not doing anything and a thousand other things are calling to my attention. Don’t give in. Once you do you are back to square one. The more I push myself the easy it becomes to focus longer and in return, produce better results.

Tips

  • Set a timer for undistracted time. Start small and gradually build up. During this time do not look at anything else. If you catch yourself becoming distracted just sit there. Don’t open your email, unlock your phone, organize your desk, etc.
  • Continually remind yourself that each session of deep work you are building a strong immune system to distraction. So remind yourself that this skill that you are building will have massive results in the long run. Just as a master craftsman only gets better at his craft the more he does it so too does the skill of deep work strengthen the more you do it.
  • Turn off notifications on your phone and computer. Just seeing a message pop up on your phone distractions your mind from the task at hand.
  • Set a timer for distracted time. After your undistracted time give yourself 10-15 minutes for distractions then get back to work.

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