The picture of productivity is a little different in the daytime. Okay, confession, vastly different.
My picture of productivity used to be a little different in the daytime. Okay, confession, vastly different. My browser was nightmarish: my work email in the left-most tab was almost always open. Hootsuite and Planoly, my two planning apps were never closed. My Word and Google docs tabs were like my best friends filled with projects I’m working on and I was always on them. The next tab that always remained opened was my calendar followed by Forward Forty on all its varied platforms, followed by the myriad of articles I wanted to read and some of which I actually did. And of course, my phone was always within reach.
You get where I am going with this, right? Being so switched on made it impossible to be really productive and my guess is that I was not unique. In our culture of 24/7 connectivity, we may be doing our least mindful work and it took a dead-zone in my living room to show me just that.
Look! I can show you.
Write new client proposal- 6 hours at my desk
Write new client proposal – 2 hours in my dead-zone
Respond to 10 emails- 1 hour at my desk
Respond to 10 emails -30 minutes in my dead-zone
Do facebook ad campaign- 2 hours at my desk
Do facebook ad campaign- 30 minutes in my dead-zone
Mindfulness at work in a digital age is not rocket science but it is about breaking an addiction and doing conscious work to disengage with the habits we’ve learned in the last decade or so.
At your desk and in your office, mindfulness requires zero distractions and as one of the foremost thinkers on the subject preaches, it requires an awareness of what deep work really means.
Cal Newport says (you’ve got to get his book, Digital Minimalism) whenever you’re at work, locked into doing something hard with your mind, you must stop the practice of glancing at emails or heaven forbid answering them or checking facebook, all which significantly reduces performance due to the cost of context switching.
Holy smokes! It gets worse.
Turns out every time you switch your attention from one target to another and then back again, there’s a cost and its pretty darned high.
Switching, it seems, creates an effect that psychologists call attention residue, which can reduce your cognitive capacity for a non-trivial amount of time before it clears. And if you constantly make “quick checks” of various devices and inboxes, you essentially keep yourself in a state of persistent attention residue, which brings no good results to whatever it is you’re doing.
Newport’s thinking makes perfect sense and I understood immediately why I got so much more done in my dead zone at night when I worked at home. At my desk, I was spending way too much time being cognitively distracted by all the open tabs, the notifications, the phone, the….
The opposite was my reality at night. I had no WiFi access in my dead zone and therefore no notifications, no emails, no social media questions to respond to and I was more mindful about what I wanted my work outcomes to be.
Mindfulness at its broadest definition is simply awareness and if it was going to get me to work smarter and not harder I was sold.
Now I know that realistically, it may be downright impossible and a bit silly to expect that we can work all day long in our own personal dead-zones but there are certain things we can do if we find yourselves being less productive because of an overwhelming amount of distractions that comes from being plugged in.
Be way more intentional and selective about what apps and services you allow into your digital life.
Practice digital minimalism by turning off notifications from those shiny apps.
Minimize optional, shallow work (do you really have to answer that email now, really??!!) and then be very organized and intentinal about how you execute what remains.
Break your habits in tiny chunks of time. Digital minimalism does not happen overnight. For instance, I post onto IG in the morning and then respond every four-six hours to comments that filter in. Once upon a time, I used to respond immediately
Mindfulness is the singular most important practice you can cultivate because it has the power to change the way you live and work. When it comes to examining its role in your life here’s a philosophy you can deep dive into, especially as it applies to work.
“Instead of focusing too much on what’s so bad about distractions, take a step back and remember what’s so valuable about its opposite,” Newport says. Concentration is like a superpower in most knowledge-based pursuits.
If you take the time to cultivate this power, you’ll never look back and the way you work will be changed forever.