Manage your time better

The secrets of 'deep work'

Updated over a week ago

Between corporate emails and instant messages, personal app notifications, Zoom meetings, we all feel like we are very busy. But are we really productive?

How to stay efficient despite distractions? How to better manage your time and not disperse yourself? What are the simple practices to work more serenely?

Why is better management of your working time necessary?

The new era of hyper-connection that we are living in has consequences on our behavior

  • We've gotten into the habit of doing multiple things at once. In a meeting, we now have 6 arms and 4 ears. We listen to our collaborators, take notes in your notebook, while answering our manager on WhatsApp. We are multitaskers.

  • We tend to mix private and professional lives. With work from home, the intimate sphere and professional life are sharing the same living space. The boundaries between the two worlds are becoming unclear.

Both of these phenomena taken to extremes can impact our health and efficiency negatively. They can lead us to burnout - since this busy schedule leaves us very few breaks to rest. This is also a challenge for our productivity, since the distractions are such that we can no longer focus on a given task for more than a few minutes at a time.

Deep work is a simple solution that allows us to avoid the stress that multitasking and blurring can involve, but also to gain efficiency and free up time.

The “deep work”, or the in-depth work

Focus work, or deep work, designates “a professional activity carried out in a state of absolute concentration which pushes our cognitive capacities to their limits (...) Deep work is like a superpower in our increasingly competitive economy.” This definition appears on the back cover of Deep Work written by American author Cal Newport. In his book, this computer science professor at GeorgeTown University helps readers regain their ability to concentrate in a world overflowing with information. The idea is not to work more but to re-educate our mind. Okay but how ?

To achieve this state of flow, of perfect concentration to work in depth, you have to favor real breaks instead of a multitude of mini breaks on social networks or on the internet. “Entertainment, by itself, does not decrease your brain's ability to focus,” writes Cal Newport. He warns: “It is rather the fact of constantly switching, at the slightest sign of boredom or cognitive difficulty, from activities with high added-value with few stimuli to activities with low added value with a lot of stimuli, that teaches your mind to never tolerate the absence of novelty”.

He then warns against multitasking and the ever more urgent need to consult an article, a text message, a notification in the middle of a meeting or during desk work. It's this back and forth between all of these tasks that is exhausting. The ultimate goal of deep work is to be able to create deep-work hours where you won't be disturbed.

To be productive in your work, it is essential to structure your day well: “At the beginning of each working day, take a new page of the notebook (with lines) that you use especially for this” continues Cal Newport. Then, divide the hours of the day into slots, to which you assign activities: “At the beginning of each line, enter a time of day, until you have covered all the working hours of a typical day." Then think about a “time budget” (around 30% of your overall working time) for your superficial tasks. “Staying within that time budget will require you to change your behavior. You will almost certainly end up refusing projects that seem superficial, while drastically reducing the time spent on superficial tasks in your current projects.”

Taking real breaks, controlling your schedule and structuring your work day will already help you gain in productivity. To optimize your time, you have to prioritize your tasks upstream. To do this, use the Eisenhower Pyramid, the Priority Matrix: it allows you to achieve what you have to do and helps you differentiate the important and the urgent. Because not everything that is important is urgent, and vice versa!

Did this answer your question?