Deep Focus.

Between the constant barrage of notifications, social/email addiction and well, life, how often do you have the opportunity to spend more than a couple of consecutive hours focused on deep, meaningful work?
March 8, 2021
Words by
5 minute read

In the early days of Niika our Creative Director would often go AWOL at inopportune moments frustrating both myself and clients (I always covered for him of course). At the time I thought he just didn’t like people or was avoiding them and thought it was quite rude...what I didn’t understand, however, was that he was doing the ONLY thing that matters when it comes to producing quality work – going deep.

This is a very common scenario in the creative world and has resulted in many a bitter breakup between the business partner and technical partner. So sad because both parties generally think, and rightly so, that what they’re doing is right – oh can’t we stay together for the kids!?

For the average business owner, CEO, MD, salesperson deep work is often a completely foreign concept. Between calls, meetings, interrupting staff who are trying to get deep work done and the mandatory 15 cups of coffee per day our time and focus is broken down into a series of bite-sized intervals. For these types of roles where communication and relationship management take centre stage shallow work with an emphasis on deeper relationships might be the answer...for technical or creative roles however, it is not.

“How you do one thing is how you do everything”

Our collective inability to focus and go deep is having a profound shallowing effect on many aspects of our lives. Namely, our personal relationships and ability to connect with ourselves. If we are spending 40-60 hours per week in a coffee-fueled haze of fast gear shifts, we are creating mental patterns of operation that will transcend into all areas of our lives. Routine and repetition create habits and when a habit begets a busy, anxious existence where the dreaded feeling of more work is the only answer the result is a shallow life with shallow outcomes.

How then, are we able to cultivate the muscle for deep and meaningful work while also keeping up the reality of moment-to-moment commitments?

As luck would have it, I have a very excitable monkey mind and have tried everything from ritualising my workday with meditation, incense and candles (I’m serious).

To staying in hotels just to write a single document and here are some of my favourite deep focus tips for people with diverse roles that require both deep work and an adaptive work style:

  1. Wake up earlier to get at least a couple of hours deep work in before the rest of the world wakes up and starts harassing you.
  2. Block out days or times of days where you focus on deep work and don’t allow interruptions.
  3. Take short trips or getaways to focus on completing a single task – the home and even the office can be environments that aren’t conducive to deep work.
  4. Use flight mode on your phone often and disable all notifications.
  5. Make meditation a part of your daily routine – this helps you build a muscle that allows you to ‘slow down’ and focus on one thing at a time.
  6. Stop checking emails and socials every 15 seconds.

For technical or creative staff who absolutely need to focus on getting deep work done to complete projects, instead of going AWOL these tips might be helpful:

  1. Communicate with your manager and help him understand the importance of deep work and how distractions can impact a project – work on creating healthy boundaries together.
  2. Manage expectations – as inevitable distractions emerge and increase your chances of missing deadline express this openly in advance.
  3. See if you can negotiate a work from home day so you can control your environment.

Getting things done and working through your to-do list in whatever fashion gets it done is sometimes the only way. However, without deep focused work, there would be no Harry Potter, Mona Lisa, *insert favourite piece of art*. In a world of increasing shallowness, the scuba divers of work are the ones retrieving pearls from the ocean floor. What sort of legacy do you want to create? The Sistine Chapel of your industry or the shakey coffee-stained fruits of a fragmented existence?