An era of hyper-demand
Today, everything is centralized on our smartphone and our laptop. Our work tools have also become our first places of entertainment. Consequently, it is difficult for the 21st century worker to stay focused in this era of hyper-demand, when notifications for an important meeting and for a professional lunch get lost in a Candy Crush invitation, a group chat on WhatsApp about Margaux’s birthday and the notification of a Tinder match. The work did not help, with the television or radio often on in the background, the fridge which is never far away and the mess around us which calls us to necessary and immediate storage when it is clearly not not the moment.
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The solution ? The “deep work”
To remedy this great organized scattering of our attention, there is a technique called “deep work” or “work in depth”. What distinguishes Bill Gates from ordinary mortals? His money certainly, his intelligence and his talent too, and perhaps even his luck. Qualities certainly difficult to acquire for everyone. But there is one trait of his character – largely responsible for his success – a little more accessible this time around: his ability to focus deeply on a single task.
This quasi-monomaniacal concentration is one of the main personality traits of the founder of Microsoft. Bill Gates indeed had the unique ability to put aside his distractions to devote himself in depth to a single task in an almost obsessive way. Nothing that could distract him or divert him from an objective until it was achieved. When he founded his computer software in 1974, he worked at it with incredible intensity, falling asleep at his keyboard while programming, then waking up a few hours later and getting back to work. We know the rest…
How to apply it?
Without going to such extremes, “deep work” suggests putting aside all distractions to enter a state of concentration and extreme productivity. We ignore our mailbox, we cut our social networks and we isolate ourselves from our external environment. The only thing that matters is the work to be done. Cal Newport, world famous author for his book “Deep Work”, professor at Georgetown University and a true authority in the United States, says that, thanks to this method, he would never work past 5:30 p.m.
We therefore leave all distractions aside, but we also use the technique of “time blocking” which consists of dividing our time into specific slots that we each assign to a very specific task. In this way, you regain control of your time. Attention, important detail, these slots can be open to modifications if a new unforeseen task comes to upset your schedule. Then, it is essential to plan enough time and not to underestimate the time needed to complete a task.
Cal Newport’s other trick is not to plan eight hours of “deep work” in a row, but to integrate time slots for “superficial work”, that is to say small tasks. The human brain would in any case not be able to carry out intense work for more than 3 to 4 hours per day on average. Then, it’s a matter of getting used to “deep work” little by little and not trying to master it from day one. One of the solutions suggested to achieve this is to rehabilitate boredom. While our smartphone constantly activates our reward system through multiple stimuli, the key to success is to inject a little reverie into our daily lives. Thus, our brain will stop assimilating the lack of stimulation to boredom and will no longer seek to be distracted at all costs to counter it. To become the next Bill Gates, it’s up to you!
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