This article first appeared on the VisionAmerica blog here.
We only have 24 hours in the day and 8,760 hours each year to manage our businesses, our families and our lives – not necessarily in that order.
If you, or your team members, struggle to manage EVERYTHING, help is on the way. Making time for play means making time for focus, or does it?
I was thrilled to read (actually listen to) Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. If it is true that only 9 percent of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions, we need help. This book is a wonderful tool to help you as you strive to reach your goals.
The Deep Work concept that resonated the most with me is FOCUS first. For years, I’ve put time on my calendar for important things and let them slide. The phone rings, I talk. A colleague needs something, I go, and the list of distractions goes on. Cal Newport’s vivid explanation of deep work as an exercise in discipline and focus really worked for me.
First, have clarity about what deep work (really thinking/concentrating) and superficial work mean to you. For me, writing a training class, preparing a presentation, analyzing data, or helping a client work through a big problem is work that requires great thought and focused attention. E-mail, light phone calls, and routine, transactional tasks are my superficial work.
It’s likely that much of the work we do is superficial – important, but superficial. If I’m not careful, the superficial work will eat up entire days.
How about you? How many hours did you spend on routine e-mail last week? If you spend two hours per workday, you are spending two months on e-mail each year.
Do you have that kind of time? Could this time be better spent on your next big thing?
Imagine spending two months on your next big thing rather than a few minutes on it here and there.
Social media junkies, please read the book. I won’t spoil it, but you will see social media differently.
By implementing deep work (or brain work as I like to call it) rituals, you will get more done in less time. Imagine knocking out two or three big projects in the time of one because you are focused on them and eliminating distractions.
I’ve talked with my clients and colleagues about brain work. One of my colleagues takes one work day per month to be totally alone. She is unavailable, and everyone knows it. Another works from home and is taking advantage of GoToMeeting (online meetings) more often. She saves travel time to give her more time to focus. Some route phones differently.
I’ve chosen to do deep work two mornings each week before going into the office and deep work in the office on Fridays. I’ve encouraged my team members to work smarter too. If one of us has deep work to do, another can cover calls and e-mails. My goal is to work less in 2018 but work smarter and get more done.
If you can get a handle on your deep work, clients win because you do stellar work on their projects. You win because you are doing more stellar work in less time.
So back to the question I posed at the beginning of this article… does making time for play mean making time for focus? The deep work concept flips it – focus on your deep work first so that you have time to play. I’m a believer.
Here are a few more things you can do, to work less and get more done in 2018:
• Audible.com (mentioned above) – a great way to get caught up on your reading if you travel.
• If you are an expert at something and someone else is 70% proficient, delegate it.
• Set boundaries (work, meetings, volunteer commitments, how much work you’ll do on a project, etc.)
• Reduce paper or go paperless. If you touch a piece of paper – 1) deal with it, 2) delegate it or 3) file it as a reference document.
• Take time for you. The work will be there when you get back, and you’ll be better prepared to do it.
• Say “NO” and mean it.