How do I: pick a space for deep work

Doing deep work like writing a book, or planning out the details of a new project can be some of the solitary work we face at some point. There are a number of factors that help you find or create the right space for your own deep work. See if these factors apply to you.

Work Space

You decide how much room you need to work. Working remotely has its advantages since a desk is optional. If it is just enough space to hold a drink and a laptop, go for it. Some prefer an airplane seat with that size table just for their laptop. If you need a massive table, seek one out or use the floor. Having a focus-friendly workspace is key.

I finished a book in a matter of a few days at an outdoor cafe where I was able to order breakfast, lunch, dinner, and limitless drinks since that was just what I needed for that amount of deep work in order to be more efficient.

Limiting Distraction

A door can (sometimes) keep with distractions with legs on the other side of it.

If a door is not an option, noise-canceling headphones reduce noise distractions.

Mentioning to people around you that uninterrupted time to focus on a deep work task for a scheduled period of time can be respected. After all, respect is either mutual or non-existent. Don’t forget to respect your own time when focusing. Do not waste your own time.

Seating

Having comfortable supportive seating is key. Nothing too hard or too soft. High enough so legs do not fall asleep. Not causing back or neck strain. Ergonomics is a domain that I won’t cover here beyond seating.

Standing desks can work for those brief “stand up” meetings if the standing desk option is used.

Some people believe having some discomfort may actually help motivate you to get the work done, however, I don’t believe suffering from bad seating or poor posture due to seating should not be part of that. Your neck and back will thank you if you pick a good ergonomic seating option for your workspace.

Lighting

Find a well-lit spot for work. Not too bright that you need sunglasses. Not too dark that you need a flashlight to see the details. The right amount of sunlight can be very beneficial to your state of mind.

Sound

Quiet is excellent, if obtainable. The white noise of a coffee shop is sometimes welcome, but not optimal. Sometimes I need to wear noise-canceling headphones or listen to music with no lyrics (that does not put me to sleep). Deep work is not sleeping, however, rest is very important.

Temperature and humidity

Regarding temperature, I noticed that I get significantly more productive when it is cooler, but not too cool. Above 55 degrees and under 82 degrees is my preference, especially when working outside.

The air should not be too humid or dry. The humidity of 50% to 60% can feel great.

Airflow

Air in motion is a big factor while in a deep work state. Stagnant air rarely helps deep work.

Well-ventilated area. An open window. A ceiling fan can be ideal whether indoors or outdoors.

A screened-in porch with a ceiling fan works well too at the right time of the day in the right weather.

Other factors?

What other factors help you find or create the right space for your own deep work?

Also, this book about Deep Work by Cal Newport could help too:

How do I: reset focus

focus on target

 

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Focus is important when you are trying to get something done. We can easily get distracted. How do we maintain focus? How do we reset our focus on target once we lose it?

I find my focus and my happiness are closely linked because I track these nightly as an exercise in noting and journaling. If you have smart goals and you are goal-oriented, you might notice the same. If you are not focused on the tasks that need to be accomplished toward your goals, it almost hurts.

Indistractable author Nir Eyal wrote that time management is closely tied to energy management (having the energy when we need to do something) as well as pain management (when we do things we need to even though we don’t want to).

So how do we reset our focus from dis-traction back to focused traction? Here are many of the things I do to reset my focus and regain focus needed:

Manage your time

To manage your time, schedule your time with one online calendar that follows you wherever you go. Not you going to your calendar to check what is on it. On your mobile phone is ideal. I happen to use Google Calendar that seamlessly appears on my laptop and phone. Noting in your calendar what you need to be doing when and for how long is a big help. Having it all online makes it accessible and flexible as things change so you and your calendar can adapt quickly to any change. If I need to do something later, I move it as needed.

Having one online calendar, just one, is key. I only have one set of 24 hours per day to manage, not several sets of 24 hours.

Be specific when noting what needs to be done in your online calendar. “Write book” is not specific enough, however “draft TOC for new book on [topic XYZ]” between 8am and 9am on Tuesday” work better as a doable smart task.

Breakdown a large project or tasks into a series of smaller more manageable tasks that are actually doable in a small time frame like an hour.

Schedule your own time or get your time scheduled for other people’s activities.

Take breaks

Some companies have scheduled hourly stretching breaks that help minimize aches, pains and workforce injuries. Even if you are stationed at a desk for hours, stretching and doing a few floor exercises each hour can help your mind and body.

Taking a walk outside is very beneficial to reset the mind in any weather provided you are dressed and prepared for it. Walking meetings are good as long as the slowest person is leading upfront to set the pace of the walk.

Exercise

30-minutes of walking, biking, or swimming are great resets and gets the endorphins flowing. I don’t run, but you can if you wish. I walk faster than most people jog. This keeps my heart rate lower, endurance higher, and for further distances.

I will walk on the beach, at a wildlife refuge, or my neighborhood for 15-30 minutes one direction (with a timer on to have me turn around and return when it rings). I will walk while listening to a podcast I have not heard before like Distributed, Tim Ferriss Show, Masters of Scale,  or an audiobook in one ear while still being able to hear the ocean waves in the other ear is extremely stimulating for ideas.

Note taking

Note-taking of those ideas on a mobile phone is the easiest so the notes are already in electronic form for digital repurposing, even if I email myself the notes. I loathe paper and avoid it like… a virus. Regardless of our age, ideas are fleeting, so capture ideas when they are at the top of your mind before the idea clutters your mind or even worse, you lose that idea. Email links or ideas with a note of context to a friend that would find them helpful and relevant to them. Even if the note is for your own consumption, email it to yourself with some context that you can lookup and find again in the future using some keywords. Getting content out of your head will lighten the load on your mind so you have less burden on your memory and fewer nagging thoughts. ABC = Always Be Capturing

Declutter your environment

If you become really frustrated and unfocused, take a look at your work environment or living space on what needs to be decluttered. We all have a pile of things to clean up  and /or declutter somewhere somehow. Refocus your energy to cleaning up and decluttering that space wherever it is. Get it done. Check it off your list.

Eat and drink well

Notice that eating well and drinking enough water are very key to having the energy needed for focused work. Headaches go away when properly hydrated. If you get a headache, try rehydrating before medicating the issue.

You will notice about an hour afterward if you did not eat or drink well. Note what you ate and/or drank so you can track your reactions to it in your online calendar.

Mediate

Occasionally, I will meditate using the Headspace app for 10 minutes. The app has options to mindfully work on your focus.

Reward yourself

Once you refocus and get things done, reward yourself. I schedule an on-demand film to watch if I accomplish what I wanted to be done that day. If I did not get things done, I reschedule the reward to later when I believe it will be done and schedule something else that needs doing that night. Some serve themselves a small snack to replenish the energy they need to do the next thing on their calendar.

Breathe

If all the above are not options for you, try box breathing which can be done to feel the effects about one minute, but longer works even better. It calms you, purposely slows the breath, and that helps reset the brain. Simply breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath in for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold no breath for 4 seconds, and repeat. Easy and works anywhere, for any situation in 16-second cycles. We take our breathe for granted until it is compromised and then it is too late.

How do you reset your focus?

Questions?