During the winter of 2016, I discovered a short clip of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the gym muttering “Focus” at himself between reps. I immediately adopted the habit and saw results within the month. What I had just done was introduce Deliberate practice into my workouts by strengthening my Mind Muscle Connection. The December of that year I was gifted Deep Work by Cal Newport and the habit of Deep Work began to take shape in my life. Within 2.5 years of reading that book, I was able to triple my salary and gain more confidence in my skills, even during periods of burnout.
This article is not meant to convince you of the value of deep work, but rather to share the habits I have installed to cultivate more opportunities for deep work throughout my day.
Every morning I spend 10 minutes ordering the items on my to-do list by importance and urgency. On the best days, I even schedule the times and duration of each activity. The goal is not to stick to a set schedule, but rather to have a clear plan of action. On average, I complete 7 items from my list, so in addition to making sure I get the most important work completed this habit prevents me from over-subscribing my energies.
For cognitively demanding tasks I break up the efforts into 30-minute blocks and track them with a Pomodoro timer. I switch my devices to “Do Not Disturb” and use this time to solely focus on the task at hand; these are the opportunities for deliberate practice.
3. Review, Rest, Repeat!
Without periods of rest and review, it is difficult to trend upwards regarding the quality of your work. I take 10 minutes at the end of my day to review work that remains on my list and decide if it needs to move to the following day or if it can be discarded. I then examine how I could have improved the day and add that activity to the following day’s list or to my journal. Once this ritual is complete I say to myself, “The day is done, it is time to rest”. This habit is as important as the ones that precede it.
There is nothing complicated about these habits but practised daily you stand to improve your days significantly. Let me know if you applied these habits and saw results!