The Art of Deep Work
As we take on public relations for startups here at Startr Co., we oftentimes find ourselves with a lot of tasks across administration and media relations. To-do lists seem to constantly expand. Of course, we want to produce the best work product for both our agency and our clients.
So, whenever we discover effective ways to work more efficiently, we HAVE to share!
Ask any publicist (or any professional for that matter) if they are good at multitasking and they will probably say they are. I always thought I was a multitasking master…until I learned about Deep Work. I thought I was getting a lot done before, but I was wrong. Don’t worry, it sounds scarier than it is! Before learning the amazing concept of Deep Work, you must first understand why multitasking is not as productive as we think.
When you multitask, you aren’t actually doing a bunch of things at once, your brain is just shifting attention between all of the things you are trying to accomplish. This is called “task-switching,” AKA the death of productivity *dun dun dunnnn*. Task-switching can decrease productivity by 40% because you begin to build "attention residue," which means you are still thinking about one task, while you’ve physically moved on to the next. Not to mention, multitasking is where careless mistakes happen. So next time you are working on press material creation for one client, responding to emails from a second client and staffing a phone interview for a third – don’t.
The idea of Deep Work came from Cal Newport, a renowned author and computer science professor at Georgetown University. In his words, Deep Work is “professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” In short, it is important to focus on one thing at a time without any distractions for a significant amount of time. Sounds simple, but it can be hard!
Here are 3 easy steps on how to start practicing Deep Work:
- Determine how much time you will devote to the task ahead. We recommend chunks of 30-45 minutes to start. Look at your calendar and identify where you can slot in your Deep Work sessions in between meetings and calls.
- Set a structure for yourself to focus. Fill up your water bottle, keep your phone out of reach, get in the zone with a good playlist and let those around you know you are going into Deep Work mode. The purpose of setting a structure is to be sure there are no possible distractions around you.
- Don’t forget rest breaks. In between Deep Work sessions, take 5 minutes to yourself to regroup and refuel – walk around the office, go outside, grab a snack, chat with a colleague (who isn’t in a Deep Work session of course). Whatever you do, limit social media because it doesn’t let your mind rest.
My go-to method to get into deep work is to write down what I am focusing on, put my phone where I can’t see it, and start a killer playlist (R&B is my favorite because it is a genre I enjoy and I can easily work with it on). After starting to implement Deep Work into our workdays, all of us here at Startr Co. have seen an improvement on the amount of work we get done and how we feel when 5 pm rolls around.
Remember, don’t jump into a full day of Deep Work sessions, take a 3-hour block where you will chunk out time and then the following week take a 4-hour block and so on and so forth. Of course, being a publicist comes with days where our Deep Work plans just don’t happen, but it is important to be flexible in those moments so you can reprioritize your to do’s for the next time you can practice Deep Work.
- Download Forest, an app specifically designed to help you stay away from your phone and focus on your work. Forest users grow a virtual forest by not fiddling with their phones during designated times set, and thus earn virtual currency to purchase real trees.
- Check out the different playlists on Spotify and Apple music designed for helping you focus.
- Use your ‘automatic reply’ internally to let colleagues know you are in Deep Work mode and will reconnect with them when your session is over. If something is urgent, they can let you know.
Ultimately, Deep Work will allow you to be more efficient, produce better work and feel more accomplished. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you carve out chunks of time throughout your day.
If I wasn’t in Deep Work mode while writing this blog post, it would have probably taken me a lot longer to complete :)