The human mind is destined for distraction. From the sound of an alarm clock when we wake up first thing in the morning to the constant buzzing of notifications on our phone throughout the day.
One of the main reasons why we gravitate towards these distractions is our desire to eliminate boredom. With the digital era championing instant gratification, we have so many powerful tools at our fingertip providing us with instant stimulation whenever we need.
Our disdain for idle moments can be spotted in any checkout queue, any public transport, or even at the dinner table. The prevalent habit of scrolling through our mobile phone has conquered much of our previous 'spare' or empty time. It raises the question of whether the current generations can truly sit and do nothing, or if constant engagement or interaction is required.
Boredom and Deep Work.
Whilst some people may not be familiar with the concept of deep work, the concept is not new.
People have been adopting deep work practices throughout their life, even if unconsciously. The term 'Deep Work' refers to undiluted attention towards a notably important task. For example, when focusing on urgent tasks, most people know to remove all distractions from their workspace such as closing social media tabs, silencing their mobile phones, or even putting on headphones to zone out the noisy (and social) office situations.
During deep work, you may still experience boredom but not succumbing to this boredom is the key to success.
Boredom is to be expected as you embrace Deep Work.
Although you may use deep work occasionally to complete your urgent tasks, you won't be able to get most out of deep work if you only do it every now and then. Just like how professional athletes spend the majority of their time in the day training, you have to always practice deep work in order to be able to work deeply.
These are some useful tips that you can apply to make your deep work session worthwhile:
Schedule Your Distractions.
Whilst distractions may draw you away from a focused state of mind, avoiding distractions all at once won't help you concentrate either. You have to be fully distracted in order to be completely focused.
On that note, scheduling time for your distractions is just as important as determining the time slots for when you will be focused and distraction-free.
Don't take breaks from distraction. Instead take breaks from focus.
The Pomodoro Technique is a perfect time management tool for this exercise as you will have a series of 25-minute deep work separated by breaks for your distractions.
Allocating time for your distractions can also be a positive reinforcement. For every completed deep work session, you get rewarded with the time to do anything that you want.
In this context, distraction falls on the same line as temptation. You won't be the first or the last to find yourself falling victim to distractions.
Indeed, it is hard not to look at your phone whilst you are focusing on a certain task or that you think a quick reply to an email won't break your focus. As a matter of fact, the misbelief of "just a little bit of something won't hurt" does a great deal of harm.
People often believe that multitasking is a strength, unfortunately, the human mind is not made for multitasking. Simply put, multitasking kills productivity.
When you're focused on a task, your mind is working deeply in completing the task until another component enters the bubble and diverts your attention to a new variable. Likewise, when you are working deeply on a task, by quickly checking your emails or replying to a short email will ruin your productivity.
Hence, the next time you are thinking of quickly checking your phone notifications during deep work, ask yourself, "Is it worth it to build my focus from 0-10 again or my phone notifications can wait?"
Exercise Productive Meditation.
An additional tip for practicing deep work is through productive meditation. Whilst meditation often refers to the state of being relaxed both physically and mentally to help your mind focus, productive meditation is the opposite kind of meditation that you are familiar with.
The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you're occupied physically but not mentally—walking, jogging, driving, showering—and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem.
- Cal Newport "Deep Work".
Boredom can be a great source for problem solving, whilst a good amount of people have admitted to making hard decisions in the shower.
Productive meditation is a good exercise for your brain as it allows for deep thinking without limiting you from being physically occupied with your day-to-day activities. Overall, it is a time efficient tool for you body and mind.
Great ideas are the work of boredom. People often associate productivity with occupation, therefore, it is believed that if you're not occupied with something, you're basically unproductive.
Following this, people are constantly looking for things to keep themselves busy, at least their mind, causing people to shy away and view boredom as a negative thing.
Sometimes a little bit of boredom is all you need to have an impactful difference to your life.