When I tried to write this article, I first spent twenty minutes checking my Facebook, checking my What’sApp, reading an article, then I was reminded I had to check something for a friend… In other words, I wasn’t that focused. All while I should be busy. Sounds familiar? Yeah, thought as much.
It’s normal in our times to be continuously distracted by your phone. They’re designed to be distracting! The problem this brings up is that all that distraction can cause you to drop your productivity. We wouldn’t want that.
In ‘Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World’, computer scientist Cal Newport gives us seven tips to keep focused. Here they are:
1: Be bad at email
Emailing at all time may feel productive, but it’s not. “We have this social convention that every email deserves a reply. I recommend that people flout that social convention. Just don’t answer emails if you can get away with it”, Newport says.
2: Be bored
“Once you’re wired for distraction, you crave it”, he says. Newport thinks that it’s best to schedule some internet time for yourself and to otherwise avoid it completely. Always checking your phone for the latest Instagram picture or your latest message doesn’t help for your productivity. Not doing it ‘helps your mind get more comfortable with being bored’.
Note: this is really hard. “People underestimate how addicted they’ve become to having novel stimuli at the slightest hint of boredom.”
3: Weigh pros and cons
Try to make a calculation of the tools you use: if the pros outweigh the cons, use it. If not, don’t. Writer Malcolm Gladwell for example, does not use Twitter because he thinks the cons outweigh the pros. While it may work for some writers, he thinks it keeps him down.
4: The Law of the Vital Few
Eighty percent of a given effect is due to just twenty percent of the possible causes. When it comes to achieving your goals, identify the twenty percent that get you eighty percent closer to your goals. “The things that you do best produce way more value than the things you don’t do as well,” he says, “so one hour spent working intensely on something that you’re highly skilled at is going to produce way more value than one hour spent on something that is not as highly skilled.”
5: Quit social media
Try to not use all of your social media for thirty days. After that, think for each social medium: would your life have been better if you did use it, and did people care you didn’t use it? If the answer is ‘no’ to both, don’t bother using the medium anymore.
“People think that the hardest thing that I suggest to actually put into practice would be quitting social media,” says Newport, “and yet in my experience, what happens is those who do this then come back and say, ‘Oh. Why didn’t I do this earlier? Why was I spending so much time with these services? That wasn’t hard at all.’”