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Focus for success

Posted by Andrés Mayo on

In our current reality, it is increasingly common to find ourselves in open offices that stimulate collaborative work but encourage distraction, we are bombarded by emails that our colleagues and clients insist that we respond instantly, we attend countless work meetings and at the same time is expected to produce the best possible results.

Journalist Nicholas Carr, in an article for The Atlantic Monthly magazine, shows us a diagnosis of the situation:

"Apparently internet is undermining my capacity for concentration and contemplation. And I am not the only one".

Unfortunately when replacing the distraction by the concentration that the approach allows, things are not so simple.
After trial and error, Cal Newport, a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, developed a 4-strategy plan to focus and do an in-depth job. Four guidelines that can help you activate your focus ability:

1. Work deeply

The ability to carry out in-depth work is increasingly scarce, but at the same time, increasingly valuable in our economy. As a result of this dynamic, those who cultivate this skill and make it the pilar of their working life will triumph.

The key to developing the habit of deep work is to create routines that minimize resistance to concentration. For example, establish a schedule to do deep work; determine a time span that you will dedicate to this task; condition the space where you will carry out this practice; as well as eliminate those things that can be as distant as a television, the telephone and even the internet.

2. Narrow distractions

Many people assume that they can move from distraction to a state of concentration whenever they need it, but this assumption is optimistic. When our brain is used to being distracted, it searches insistently for those moments.

The advice of Newport is that you establish moments for distraction in the middle of your deep work. This strategy does not expand your ability to concentrate, but it teaches your mind to minimize the amount of times you give in to distraction. For example, it determines how much time you will spend using the internet (if this is your main distractor). In case the internet is a work tool, spend the scheduled time to some other distractor, television, for example.
Use this strategy both at home and in your office.

3. Get away from social networks

According to the Association, Mexicans spend an average of 7 hours 14 minutes a day connected to social networks. So this strategy may be obvious, but Cal Newport does not refer to a simple "use less networks", but goes further by suggesting you cut with them. For this he invites you to reflect on the use you give them, as well as the benefits they bring to your life and work.

Do you really need Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp, Tumblr, LinkedIn and the latest fashion network? How much time do you dedicate to each of them? Do you think that the quality of your life and your work would be much better if you eliminated some of your accounts?

Even if you choose only one social network, you will dedicate a greater focus and better communication in it.

 4. Remove superficial

Deep work requires that you be respectful with your time, the advice is to schedule your day. Maybe the idea of structuring each moment of your life -starting times for each issue- seems excessive and you prefer to leave the daily events to chance. However, if you want to develop your true potential, you must learn to overcome the distrust that the structure produces.

If you are not clear about the time that an activity will take, give them extra minutes to do it with ease. The advantage is that you can determine the time you spend on superficial and distracting activities.
Cal Newport is sure that a life focused on deep work is not for everyone, it requires effort and drastic changes in your habits. But if you are willing to make this effort, you will soon discover that depth leads to a productive and meaningful life.

If you are interested in deepening your ability to focus through deep work I recommend Cal Newport book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. In this book Newport develops in depth the concepts that I have pointed out in this collaboration.

By: Andrés Mayo Góngora

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