As a knowledge worker, your job depends on your ability to create real value for your clients and customers. You're expected to solve complex problems and create new possibilities. The good news is this is the work you love to do! The bad news is between meeting after meeting and inbox never-zero, you struggle to find enough time to devote to distraction-free concentration needed for producing your best work.
This post covers the concept of productive meditation from Cal Newport's book, “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”. Cal says, “Deep work is so important that we might consider it, to use the phrasing of business writer Eric Barker, ‘the superpower of the 21st century’.”
I could not agree more. This post will cover two key ideas:
- Why deep work is essential, and if you don't need convincing, then jump right to #2.
- A powerful technique called “Productive Meditation” designed to help train your brain to focus and help you get more deep work into your already packed schedule. Don’t worry. No incense or chanting required.
IDEA #1: WHY IS DEEP WORK ESSENTIAL?
Deep work is the “cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve”. Shallow work, in contrast, is the non-cognitively demanding stuff that is increasingly taking up more of our day. You know what I'm talking about. Email management, attending meetings where you are not essential, reporting on work already done. Is that really where remarkable performance happens?
Deep work is where we invest time, diving deeply into the issues and problems we are trying to solve. It's where we find our flow state: pushing to find breakthroughs, discovering innovative ways to solve problems, and essentially doing our most remarkable work. You know that feeling. It's the work at the core of remarkable careers. Unfortunately, our always connected lifestyle has hijacked our lives, holding our deep work hostage. A casualty of our new way of working has been our ability to focus and truly engage in deep work.
It doesn't have to be this way. You can harness the superpower of deep work to make more of what you do remarkable.
IDEA #2: PRODUCTIVE MEDITATION
Productive Meditation is a useful way to both retrain our brains to focus and to fit deep work time into our days without changing anything we do. So, what is it? Productive Meditation is when you focus on a business challenge while you are doing something physical. Maybe you are commuting to work, running, walking, taking a shower, or even cooking. The important thing is to commit this time and think only about how to solve that single business challenge.
Since reading about Productive Meditation in “Deep Work”, I've been practicing Productive Meditation, and it has been a huge benefit to me! Not only am I getting better at focusing on a problem, I've also found it to be an inventive way to fit much needed creative time into my day. There's a reason so many great insights occur in the shower or happen on a run.
The key is to be intentional about Productive Meditation and to have your business challenge top of mind so that you can capitalize on opportunities to practice Productive Meditation.
IDEA TO ACTION – TRY IT!
Step 1: Think of your most pressing business challenge. What is the breakthrough that would drive the most value for your customers or have the most impact on your business?
Step 2: Identify the next time you will have 30 minutes of drive time, run time, or walking the dog time. I'm not talking about next week; I'm talking about right now.
Step 3: Commit to using that time for Productive Meditation to think deeply about that most pressing business challenge.
Try this for a week or two and see if you aren’t impressed by the results!