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How to harness the power of “deep work”

You’re sat at your desk getting mentally ready for a productive full day at work. But somehow your day just gets filled with group meetings, back and forth emails, and a whole range of other markers of busyness. You did some work things, but they weren’t stimulating. If that sounds familiar to you, then perhaps you can benefit from “deep work”. In this Pacific Prime article, we’ll tell you what this concept is all about and how you can harness its power.

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What is “deep work”?

Have you ever been so into your work that time just flies? The kind of work where it doesn’t even feel like work? The kind of work that leaves you feeling accomplished afterwards. The kind of work that’s more than simply just clocking in hours for the sake of getting paid.

Essentially, that’s “deep work”.

The term “deep work” was coined by Cal Newport, a famous author and Georgetown University professor, in a 2012 blog post and elaborated in his 2016 bestselling book of the same name.

According to Newport, “deep work” is:

“Professional activity 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.”

In direct contrast to “deep work”, is the kind of work Newport defines as “shallow work”. These kinds of work are not cognitively demanding, performed while distracted, and do not tend to add any value.

A big part of “deep work” is the nature of work you’re doing. If you’re lucky enough that your work is stimulating, then you just need to improve focus and concentration. But if you feel like all you’re ever doing is “shallow work”, then you’ll need to widen the scope of your work.

In order to do so, take matters into your own hand. For example, you could speak to your employer about potential training you can undertake to improve your craft or areas where you can increase responsibilities to challenge yourself.

How to improve focus and concentration for “deep work”

The workplace is filled with distractions – whether that’s in the form of email pings or Slack notifications. What’s more, the open office plan that was popularized in the 1980s to lower real estate costs can add to the distractions.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, many employers are now starting to rethink their office design. This might even have spillover benefits when it comes to “deep work” in the office.

But, let’s take a step back to see what you can do as an individual to harness the power of “deep work”. The following gives you a couple of practical tips and tricks to help you improve focus and concentration to facilitate “deep work”.

1. Have a goal for your “deep work” session

Setting a goal is extremely important for “deep work” sessions because of how the brain works. If the brain knows what it is you’re trying to achieve, it will do its best to stay focused until you’ve achieved that goal.

Breaking down a large goal into smaller bite-size tasks might also be helpful in this regard. When you tick off each task, that helps maintain the momentum and causes a dopamine spike in your brain. That’s a chemical reaction happening in your brain that makes you feel happy.

2. Disable “push notifications” and log out of everything 

As social media can be a distraction, it makes sense to disable “push notifications” for all social media. This way you won’t be tempted to check Instagram if you’ve got a new direct message and waste 10 minutes of your day pointlessly scrolling through its feed.

For work-related distractions like emails, you could even allocate time to answer them. Of course, this won’t work if your main job involves emailing. But if not, set aside time at regular intervals during the day to reply to emails. This will help prevent your workflow from being disrupted.

3. Alert your colleagues

Closely related to the previous point, when you’re getting ready for a “deep work” session, it’s best to let your colleagues know. This way they won’t nudge you while you’re in the middle of something or wonder why you haven’t been replying to their ping!

Wondering how to bring this up? Just have a casual conversation with your neighbors at work telling them that you need to stay focused for a little while. You can even set your status on any work-related messaging apps as “Present but deep working”.

4. Experiment with different working styles

While “deep work” requires focus and concentration, this doesn’t mean you have to sit still when you’re working. You can switch things up with a standing desk or incorporate movement into work. For example, going for a walk to brainstorm ideas in your head.

Exercise can not only increase blood flow to the brain, but it has also been found to boost the size of the hippocampus – the part of the brain that is crucial for learning and memory. So when you’re stuck, instead of reaching for your phone, head out for fresh air and some exercise.

5. Practice mindfulness

It may be difficult to focus on a single task when you’ve got multiple things pending on your to-do list. You may be tempted to multitask – after all, many people feel this ability is a measure of success.

Practicing mindfulness can help you achieve focus and concentration. Start by being in the present moment or doing meditation. Many employers may also offer these sessions as part of their employee benefits plan. If not, you can always suggest that they design one!

Get in touch with Pacific Prime

Of course, the tips for improving focus and concentration provided above may not be of much help if you are suffering from mental or behavioral health conditions. It’s been on the rise in the workplace since the COVID-19 outbreak and we’ve written about it on our blog page.

If you feel conditions like stress, anxiety, or depression are affecting your work, then it’s time to seek help from a licensed therapist. If you already have health insurance, which includes mental health coverage, then you don’t need to worry about costs.

Have questions about health insurance? Pacific Prime, with over two decades of experience in the industry, can help. Whether it’s individual or family health insurance and beyond, we can provide you with health insurance solutions that suit your needs and budgets. Contact us today!

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime
Suphanida aims to demystify the world of insurance by creating informative and engaging content. As a wordsmith, she spends the majority of her day writing and editing website content, blog posts, in-depth guides, and more.

Outside of work, Suphanida enjoys traveling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.