from distracted to calm…
Jones IT is located in San Francisco, the land of an ever increasing amount of tech companies and rent prices. We’re in the epicenter of technological advancement, and that’s pretty cool. We’re the first to witness the newest, fastest, and best technological advancements in our society all aimed to make our lives better, and more efficient. It feels as though we’ve got apps for our apps and notifications when to wake up, eat, workout, and go to bed.
When I started working after college, I was overwhelmed by receiving constant emails and texts about my job. I became constantly distracted. I thought staying connected to my work was the only way to become a successful employee. It wasn’t until I started practicing meditation and yoga that I relearned the ability to enter a natural state of calmness and achieve deep focus. I began implementing techniques of transcendence and mindfulness to accomplish some of my more demanding cognitive tasks. I quickly realized that I was becoming more efficient, and tasks that used to take me a full week, would only take a few hours of uninterrupted effort. I started planning and blocking time out my days for specific tasks, and I even began to enjoy my work more.
I’ve been the Office & Facilities Manager at Jones IT for just a couple months, but I’ve felt more comfortable working for this company than for any other. Not only have my ideas of how to work been validated, but I’m learning new ways to improve my processes and time management everyday. It feels great as an employee to have a company around me that emphasizes the elimination of waste and improving self proficiency.
In this blog post, I’m going to be introducing the concept of deep work, when to use it, and how prioritization and planning play pivotal roles in not only becoming an efficient worker, but an efficient human.
What is Deep Work and How Can It Be Used to Improve Efficiency?
When working on a project, I noticed it’d become almost impossible for me to make it more than 10 minutes without receiving a notification from my phone, desktop, or alert from my own brain about a different task I have to work on. This has become the norm for many, and the scariest part is that this behavior went on for years without any questioning. Not only is this scary, it’s also just downright inefficient. These interruptions can delay even the simplest of tasks.
Deep work can be achieved during single or mono tasking. Deep work, as defined by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World “is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time”. Research shows that there’s no such thing as multitasking, our brains can’t do it. Instead we’re just switching from task to task really fast, giving us the allusion of working on multiple things at once. Multitasking can be attributed to a decrease in attention span, increased mental fatigue, and overall less productivity.
Now, I’m not saying that multitasking is the devil and that we should only work in deep focus. Multitasking can be extremely efficient and a contributing factor to new ideas. But you have to do it mindfully. I’ve witnessed the consultants at Jones IT work as masters of multitasking. They’re always solving multiple IT issues at once.To achieve efficient multitasking, we work as a team and keep continuous open communication. Most, importantly, after every project, our consultants set a time to review it. They consistently improve our processes by taking the time to examine what went right and what went wrong. This is something ingrained into the culture at Jones IT and we believe it can be beneficial to every single company.
To engage in deep focus work, we recommend giving these a shot.
Practice meditation to help silence and refocus your brain with apps like Headspace or Calm. Kick off by challenging yourself by starting with 5 minutes at a time when you wake up and before going to bed. Eventually, you can increase the time with practice. Just as our teeth need flossing and brushing; our brains could always use the mental flossing and brain bathing through meditation.
Implement time structures to your work. Set up short sprints with mini-milestones on tasks/projects and time limits somewhere between 20 minutes to 2 hours. The 25/5 Pomodoro Technique is a perfect for this. If you use Trello for your tasks and projects, the Pomello app integration really helps you to implement this strategy.
Planning to Plan, the Secret to an Organized Schedule
Planning is an essential part of entering deep work and we have more tools to organize our time than ever before. I use my google calendar religiously for both my personal and work lives. I hated the fact that after college I had to plan to hang out with my friends and actually schedule dates on the calendar to meet up with people. But once I put my big boy pants on, I realized how much mental space can be freed up from continuously keeping an updated schedule.
You can achieve a balance of multi and mono tasking through concise documentation and planning. Instead of constantly having to think and remind yourself about something you have to do, which can clutter the brain and make deep work nearly impossible, write out your to do list. Examine that list and try to separate the tasks that require deep work from those that do not. Multitasking is used most efficiently when working on monotonous tasks that require little concentration. Another good rule of thumb is to bundle physical and cognitive tasks to achieve maximum efficiency.
Ok, now let’s say you’ve got your entire day planned, and after much determination and practice, you can enter deep work on command. You’re ready to start a highly anticipated project and you’ve never felt more confident in your abilities. You begin working and out of nowhere, your coworker comes up to you and starts talking about their weekend, then asks for help on a project they’re extremely close to finishing. DAMMIT! You want to be a good coworker but you’re just starting your deep work! This is a part of everyday life, and certainly not something to get upset about. Things come up and that’s just the way it is. We still have a way to maximize our efficiency and achieve deep work even when these distractions arise. It’s called prioritization and the power of saying no, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Prioritization and the Power of Saying No
When I first started working, I was afraid to say no. Whenever someone asked for help on a project or started to discuss another subject, I would instantly jump in. I thought this made me a great employee and coworker. However, I eventually learned how detrimental this could be to my own efficiency and ability to accomplish tasks. Saying no is actually an incredibly important skill, one that is often mentioned but rarely emphasized.
It’s important to remember what’s actually a priority. Not everything on your to do list will be considered one of the most important tasks of the company (although we may feel/act that way sometimes). Most of the time, you should be able to recognize when it’s appropriate to step away from your work. If you are able to teach yourself how to enter deep work, plan out your day/week, and prioritize which projects/tasks should receive attention first, you will be an extremely efficient worker.
At Jones IT, we use a point system to label each task with relative importance. Ranging from 1 point to 10 points, this system is used to prioritize what we should be working on first. If someone wants help with a 1 point task and I’m deep into a 10 point task, I not only have the ability, but the responsibility to say, “I’m sorry I’d love to help but I’m deep in a project right now. I can help in about 30 minutes though!” Taking a break and helping others is a great way to step away and get a quick rest before going back into deep focus work.
Conclusion: deep work is good for company culture, interruptions (especially from IT PROBLEMS) are bad
Companies like Google and Zappos are celebrated for their influential workplace cultures. They’ve realized how important it is to keep employees happy; they consistently go above and beyond to supply their employees with the resources they need to thrive. Thanks to scientific research, our understanding of what makes humans efficient workers is increasing. The best companies have taken notice to this information and have implemented it into their DNA.
Those companies that have learned to eliminate waste and stress have helped their employees become highly efficient workers. However, Jones IT Consulting can do that for your company and employees too. When hardware and software fail, it can send us into a panic, a state that makes it impossible to enter deep work. For small businesses where employees wear many hats, hiring an IT support provider can free up time for important projects and relieve employee stress.
Jones IT wants to help your company’s employees spend their time on what matters, the tasks and projects that will continue to grow your business and provide the best service/products possible. As an Office Manager, I know how much time can be eaten up by IT problems and troubleshooting. We’re here to take those problems off your plate and maximize your efficiency. If you’re looking for IT help, look no further than Jones IT :) Let us know what has been your experience with deep work (and how technology is helping or hurting) in the comments section below.
Are network and WiFi hiccups killing your deep work? If so, you should check out our our article on 5 Signs Your Business Needs A Wifi Upgrade to learn the most effective ways to convince your boss or partners it’s time to upgrade the wifi. To learn more, call or email Jones IT today!