Why is it so hard to get that hard work done? The Deep Work, the stuff we really have to concentrate and focus on. Have you got that piece of work? It could be writing a program or a book or launching your podcast where you really have to think about it hard. Yet, it's just sitting there on your to-do list. Day after day, week after week. It's just not getting done and you're starting to believe-I just can't focus!. I just can't seem to do that piece of work. So you kind of default to other things. You stay busy, you get onto your social media, you dip into emails, you do some more research and you feel like you're really productive. But really the stuff that you need to be producing to level up your business and really bring what's in your heart into the world hasn't happened yet.
What we're really talking about here is deep work. It's the hard, bigger projects, the challenging work. When you're stepping out of your comfort zone
And if you're finding it hard, you're not alone. It's really, really common. We all feel that sometimes. If it is becoming a pervading thought and it's stopping you growing your business, then we really have to bust through this limiting belief and get back on track. If you're anything like me, you find that you're completely distracted. So much of the time. Social media is constantly pinging. My phone's going off. It's WhatsApp. It's an email. It's an Instagram post. It's a Facebook group. It's everything's going on simultaneously. Did you know that we check our phones an average of 96 times per day? That's about every 10 minutes. And if that's the average, then as online entrepreneurs, we must be above average, right? Because if we're building a business, we need to stay connected.
Social media is such a key tool and it is really important. We can't just dismiss social media and say “oh, it's a distraction.” We know that we need to use social media. But when it’s starting to take over and preventing us from doing Deep Work, well, then we might have some issues.
Distractions are stopping us from getting focused and just that feeling of overwhelm can stop us in our tracks.
It's like, we're going into a sense of panic where we either want to run away or totally freeze. Either way, we're not going to sit down and start that really hard piece of work suddenly out of the blue.
In his book, Deep Work by Cal Newport, he describes Deep Work as...
Professional activities 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.
If you break that down, you can see how important deep work is for online entrepreneurs like us. Because there he's saying that these efforts create new value, they're improving our skill and they're hard to replicate. It’s where we create a difference for other people doing similar things out there in the marketplace. It’s the best way for us to create and convey how we add value. It's taking inspired action. Like writing a book, creating a podcast or a blog, writing a business plan, creating your course or your program. It's where our work streams are elevated. They are going to define our value in the marketplace and with our ideal customers.
Something that can hold us back without us even realizing that we are doing it is multitasking.
So busy mums, which so many of us are, we've just taken this multitasking to a whole new level. We can be doing three or four things at once and just feeling like this is the only way that we can really manage all the things on our plate. When it actually comes to working on our business, it's not always the case. When we multitask we're shifting our attention from one thing to another. It basically is a lot of time wasted where our brain has to catch up with the next task instead of just getting on with the one that we were doing at first. I don't know about you, but it really increases my stress levels. I've always been a multi-tasker and in the past it was something I was quite proud of. It's only more recently that I've realized that it can really hold me back and I can't concentrate and get things done.
Instead, I've really started to understand the value in batching, which is where you do the same task for a prolonged period of time.
We want to prevent our brain being interrupted as much as possible. There was a study done at the university of London. They found that during cognitive tests, a participants IQ score declined almost to the levels of either smoking marijuana or having an entire night of no sleep when people were multitasking. It's easy to see why we multitask. Sometimes it's a bit like busy-ness as a proxy for productivity. Does that make sense to you? Just this idea that sometimes we stay busy because we feel productive even though the actual work that we're creating isn't really gonna level us up or move us on significantly. So what is this deep work and how do I get me some?
Well, it's about being in a state of flow.I'm sure you'll know this because we've all been in this position at sometime. It's when time just disappears. You’re really, really enjoying what you're doing. It's like... inspired action! You just can't believe what you achieved. The co-founder of positive psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes a state of flow as stretching your mind to its limits, concentrating and losing yourself in an activity. Now here’s the best thing, there's actually a link between being in a state of flow and feelings of happiness. His research showed that the most contentment was reported when a person's mind or body is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. The funniest thing was that the study showed that, although people thought that relaxation was what they enjoyed the most, it did not rank as high as being in a state of flow. Now, here are six ways that you can start moving towards a state of flow, so you can really get your deep work done and make sure that you're nailing the tasks that are going to level up your business and define you in your niche.
First up, prioritize deep work. I'm really hoping that by reading this, you really understand the value of it. If it's something that you've not been doing enough of then you're starting to feel really engaged about changing that. Think about what tasks actually require deep work, the ones that you really need to prioritize. Let me give you a little clue, if you can't think of what they are, they're probably the ones that you haven't done. The ones that are Big. The ones you feel are difficult and intimidating. Those are the ones that you need to prioritize for Deep Work.
Next up, make sure that you schedule time for deep work. I'm doing quite a bit of coaching at the moment, which I'm loving, but I am finding that when I schedule my coaching calls with my clients willy-nilly into any time during the day, I'm actually breaking my opportunity to do any deep work. If I had a call, at say 11:00 AM for an hour, pretty much I wouldn't do any deep work that morning whatsoever because I know I'm going to be interrupted. I can't even really think about how to get started. If I just put a call in every morning and every afternoon, even just one call, the chances of me getting deep work done, are really limited. What I've started to do now is to block either half day or even better a whole day or two a week, where I don't schedule calls. I know that when I need to do deep work like preparing for my podcast or perhaps writing the program. That’s when I'm going to do it.
The third one is you have to remove distractions. In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport saysquit social media. Now don't freak out. I'm not saying that because we can't, right? It just goes to show though, how deeply people feel about the distraction of social media. I mean, we know that we need social media and we're not going to quit it, but when it comes to deep work, we have to just temporarily take a pause. So what you need to do, and it's pretty obvious, is put your devices on airplane mode, turn off the wifi. You can also shut the door, unplug the phone, whatever else you need to do to be completely undistracted for just one block of time. How I like to do this is the Pomodoro technique. It is named after the mid-century American, a little alarm clock timer, that's shaped like a tomato and you just turn it. You can set a timer. You don't actually need that little awesome alarm clock in order to do the technique. Anything will do. I like to use my Alexa and I just tell her set alarm for 20 minutes and I pretty much turn everything else off. Isolate yourself and you make sure you set the timer for 20 minutes. The reason you set a timer is because even looking at the clock is a distraction. How many times did you just look up and go, Oh how much longer if I got? Instead set the alarm and you set yourself an intention for the next 20 minutes, I'm going to do nothing else but work on this. I'm going to write the first chapter of my book. I'm going to write a coaching piece that I'm going to present on a live or whatever it might be.
You know, if you're an artist, then you're probably really familiar with this kind of deep work, where you're so absorbed into your specialism. This technique works really, really well but it's also really important to practice it regularly. This is the next point, doing Deep Work is actually a skill that we get better at the more we do it and the more we do it, the more we enjoy it. The more we do it and the more we enjoy it, the more productive we are at that’s important in order to level up our business. It's a win-win win really.
And finally get accountable to producing the output from this Deep Work. Be clear on what progress you plan to make, set yourself a deadline and go public with it. I'm all into radical accountability. I'm going to do some future episodes delving into this in more detail. But even if it's something that you tell your partner, or you ideally have an accountability pod, tell them that you're going to be doing this hard thing. Set yourself a deadline and make sure that they hold you accountable to it. Deep work is the foundation of your business's essence and value. It’s what you have inside of you, manifested into the world. I'd love to hear what you're working on in your Deep Work moments. Let me know. And in the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed today's episode. Please do subscribe and review, especially with Apple iTunes. Have an action filled week until next time. Bye now.