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  • Ryoga

How to Concentrate Your Work: Achieving the Flow State

Updated: Dec 22, 2023


Concentrating to work and study, reading and writing book

In today's fast-paced world, maximizing efficiency and enhancing productivity are the keys to professional success. However, achieving these goals is not as straightforward as it may seem. It involves adopting strategies that promote deep work and eliminate shallow work, effectively harnessing the power of concentration.


Deep Work and Shallow Work


The concept of deep work was popularized by Cal Newport, an esteemed author who noted a fascinating trend among college students. According to Newport, high-performing students often studied less time than those below them on the GPA scale. This observation led to a simple but powerful formula:


High Quality of Work = Intensity of Focus x Time Spent


The implication is clear - concentration significantly improves your skills and performance. The key lies in identifying and eliminating distractions to shift from shallow work to deep work.



Identifying and Eliminating Distractions


Constantly checking emails, engaging with social media, answering calls, web surfing, and frequent trips to the coffee machine are all distractions that can disrupt your focus. These interruptions can significantly lower productivity. If you find yourself grappling with such distractions, it's crucial to identify the priority of your work.


Eliminate these distractions to create an environment conducive to focusing on critical tasks. Start by defining what your priority work is, remove any obstacles, and then concentrate solely on these essential tasks.


However, if you're unsure about what your obstacles are, or if everything seems equally important, try this approach. Temporarily eliminate each task for a day or week, then evaluate at the end of this period. Ask yourself, 'Would my results have been better if I worked on this task?' If the answer is 'no', then it's not essential, and you should get rid of it from your daily tasks.


Remember, an abundance of options can decrease productivity. Adopting a 'less is more' approach can significantly improve efficiency and output.



The Power of the 80/20 Rule


The 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto's Law, states that 80 percent of outcomes result from 20 percent of all causes. This rule applies across multiple contexts:

  • 80 percent of profits come from 20 percent of clients or products.

  • 80 percent of problems arise from 20 percent of the causes.

  • 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of the effort and time.

In terms of productivity, identifying and focusing on the 20 percent of work that leads to 80 percent of the results can drastically improve your output.



Set Up a Distraction-Free Environment


Creating an environment conducive to deep work is crucial. This can involve turning your phone to airplane mode to prevent notifications from interrupting your work. Phone calls or notifications lead your attention and disrupt you, even if you don't actively engage with them. This can break your focus, and once your focus is disrupted, it's hard to get back to the same depth of concentration. Also, fill up your water bottle and grab a coffee if you need it, so you don't need to leave your working area. Make sure nothing can disrupt you.



Email Automation or Set Time Slot


You should set automatic responses email if you constantly check and respond to emails. For instance, you're out of the office until a specific time, or you only check emails twice daily, at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.


If your priority work necessitates email interaction, perhaps for team communication or urgent matters, you need to make some adjustments. Try setting aside a dedicated time slot, such as checking the email once per hour instead of doing it every few minutes. The task of constantly checking and responding to emails and messages is endless and destructive. Therefore, establishing boundaries is essential for maintaining productivity.



Control Your Thoughts to Into the Zone


Even after eliminating external distractions, and internal distractions. Thoughts come up in our minds all the time, even when we try to focus and get into the zone. When you realize your attention is slipping away from your current task, remind yourself that you can return to that thought later, then redirect your attention back. It might take time to get used to it. With this mental workout. You'll get better every time,

and easier to enter the flow state.



Planning and Scheduling


Creating a work schedule and setting time limits for each task can significantly enhance productivity. Tracking and recording your progress helps you understand your work patterns better.


This approach resonates with Parkinson's Law, which suggests that work expands to fill the time available for completion. In other words, if you give people a certain amount of time to complete a task, they are likely to use up all of that time, even if the task could have been completed in a shorter timeframe. Therefore, setting time limits encourages you to complete tasks more efficiently.



The Need for Complete Rest: No More Work After Working Day


After the working day, it's essential to disconnect from work completely. This allows you to recharge energy needed for the next day and also improves decision-making.


A study conducted by Dutch psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis found that people who allowed their subconscious minds to process information produced better decisions than those who consciously tried to work through decisions.




Spend Time in Nature


Taking breaks in nature can also enhance your productivity. A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that subjects who took a walk on a wooded path performed up to 20% better on tasks than those who took a walk in a bustling city center. This advantage of being in a natural environment continued the following week when the researchers brought back the same subjects and switched the locations.



The Myth of Multitasking


Contrary to popular belief, multitasking can hinder productivity and focus. This is due to the 'task switch costs' associated with jumping between tasks. Only a small fraction of people, about 2.5%, can multitask effectively. For most people, multitasking can decrease efficiency, increase the likelihood of errors, and negatively impact overall performance.



Sleep: An Essential Component of Productivity


Sleep is often viewed as a productivity killer. However, a lack of sleep can decrease our problem-solving abilities. Many successful individuals prioritize sleep, recognizing its crucial role in maintaining high performance and productivity levels.


I've posted an article on sleep and productivity before: check It out from the link.



Conclusion


Enhancing productivity involves a strategic approach that combines deep work, effective prioritization, efficient scheduling, and adequate rest. As you apply these strategies, remember to be patient with yourself. If you find this article helpful, please share this post with someone who needs to read it.

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