Four steps to becoming better at what you do, achieve more in less time, and get a sense of true fulfilment
With email, social media, and open-plan offices, it is difficult to focus without distraction and achieve the important work (think of the important/urgent matrix). The work that counts towards promotions, the work that gets added to your Resume, the work that is deeply rewarding and impactful.
Cal Newport’s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World sets out the reasons that deep work makes you better at what you do, let’s you achieve more in less time, and provides the sense of true fulfilment. Exactly what we are looking for :-)
We highly recommend taking the time to read his book but, in the meanwhile, here are Cal’s key tips:
1. Work Deeply
Develop a deep work habit by adding routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimise the amount of willpower needed to transition into a state of concentration. This deep work habit is helped by a. focusing on the wildly important, b. measuring your success, c. keep a scoreboard, and d. develop accountability. We love the Self Journal as a tool to help you keep a scoreboard and develop accountability.
2. Embrace boredom
In order to achieve the deepest levels of concentration, you need to wean your mind from a dependence on distraction. The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained. Interestingly, research has recently shown that people who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. So embrace those moments of boredom in your life and your brain will be thankful for it.
3. Quit social media
To master the art of deep work, take back control of your time and attention. This includes social media. Cal doesn’t advocate that you completely quit social media but that you make a conscious decision on how to use these tools. He advises that you identify the key factors that determine success and happiness in your life and that you adopt a tool such as social media only if its positive impacts on these factors outweigh the negative.
4. Drain the shallows
Cal argues in his book that the shallow work that increasingly dominates our time and attention is less vital than it often seems in the moment. So tame your shallow commitments and aim for four hours of shallow work balanced out by four hours of deep work every day. Cal gives a useful definition of deep work tasks - they are tasks that leverage your expertise.
And finally, one of his key recommendations is to finish your work by five thirty each day. We have a tendency in nature conservation to work ridiculous hours. We are fighting the good fight and need to work long and hard to achieve it - at least this is what we tell ourselves. However, Cal points out that this is counter intuitive. In fact, in order to do better work and filter out irrelevancies, we need to give our brains a rest, enjoy our personal lives, finish work at five thirty, and engage in fewer meetings and email conversations. Fascinating!
Well, we’re all for improving our work and thereby better nature conservation. So let’s go for it, Wonder Women :-)
We Are All Wonder Women is an international movement for female conservation professionals to be inspired, connected, and empowered to create an authentic, fulfilling and happy career.