Remote working allows the freedom to dictate the pace and time you work on a certain project. But with this freedom, how do you avoid falling into procrastination trap? How do you assure yourself that you can deliver quality work for your clients in the least amount of time possible?
Cal Newport, an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, hypothesizes a solution for your productivity woes. In his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, he reiterated the need for “Deep Work” or the ability to do professional work with a distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive abilities to their limits.
The Demand for Deep Work stems from our addiction to distraction. The rise of the Internet, Email, and Social Media imprisoned us to attention residue and fragmented attention. Making it hard to produce valuable output.
“Shallow Work”, or repetitive usually logistical and easily replicated work, succumb us to this “notification itch”. It leaves to just do the urgent and low yield tasks first.
Newport suggests that Deep Work lets us quickly master hard things and produce an elite level of output in both speed and quality, which is what the job marketplace demands right now.
Newport showed that, mostly, three people would succeed in our economy today. These are High-Skilled Workers, Superstars, and Owners.
“High-Skilled Workers” are people who are able to work and use current technology to their advantage. Their output is rare and sought after giving them an edge over others.
A “Superstar” is an employee who is known to give quality work in less time in exchange for a high starting pay. Companies might find the upfront cost to be pricey but the multiple projects the Superstar can finish fast makes it cheaper in the long run.
An “Owner” simply has the capital to invest in new technologies. Similar to investing in Instagram or Snapchat, the boom of their digital venture will give them an enormous slice in the economic pie.
The Remote Workers are either a “High Skilled Worker” or a “Superstar”. Our technological know-how transforms any location as our office. But this geographical advantage can be a trap for the newbie.
The common notion of remote workers “vacationing” all the time is a myth. I mean, how can you possibly work effectively on a poolside reclining chair, in only your board shorts, under the sun, with people partying around you? You simply can’t.
To be productive certain standards should be adhered. Newport encapsulated steps to further boost your productivity with “Deep Work”.
Schedule your Day
This may sound commonsensical. But Newport suggests scheduling exactly when you would do deep work. For the novice, studies show that they can only hold up to 1 hour of deep work a day while veterans might hold for 4 hours in 60 to 90-minute intervals.
When made properly, scheduling your “deep work” will program you to be in the zone for that duration. The goal is to be able to do the 4-hour threshold for our work days.
Simple Regular Habit
It is best to target accomplishing uncompromising “Deep Work” on a habitual basis. Setting this schedule on a specific time each day or each week provides stimuli to start work whenever it’s time.
If we treat this habit like a muscle that can be honed, a lot of us would benefit from its rewards in the future.
Deep Work Ritual
It is best also to associate rituals when starting to work. When I was in a hostel in Singapore, I started my workday by simply looking for a quiet place (for me this was a table in the lobby corner) and putting on my earplugs. It’s entirely the same thing whether I was in Tokyo, Bali, or El Nido.
I just look for a “work tower” and do my “work ritual”. No unscheduled distractions. Just work.
Schedule your Distractions
Speaking of distractions, Newport does not want us to entirely forego this interference. Newport wants us to schedule our “Shallow Work” as well.
Scheduling these tasks might be set at a specific time as well or after accomplishing a task milestone. For example, after I finish this article, I will allow myself shallow work for a certain number of minutes.
We still need this to recharge ourselves for the next deep work session.
Lastly, Newport wants us to disconnect from our work life. By the end of the day, a “Daily Shutdown Routine” is imminent.
It is simply writing tasks to do the next day and reminders for unfinished tasks. After writing such, we utter a “shutdown complete” mantra. This may be cringeworthy. But it helps you gain peace of mind for the coming workday.
It allows your mind to detox from your worries with work and finish the day with a smile.
With the inevitable automation of most clerical tasks in the future, the competition to differentiate ourselves is not limited to other people, but also to machines. The biggest advantage we have is producing output no AI can replicate.
With the benefits of deep work, we can secure our relevance in this society while enjoying benefits of remote working. Simply jotting down and implementing this “work rules” can boost your productivity a thousand fold.
With the help of this skill, we can surely make it happen.