The lost art of Focus and Deep work

Live Healthy Anywhere, on the road and on the go.
When is the last time you worked with focus – uninterrupted by texts, notifications, or flashing ads – and simply ‘dug in’? Does this sound a luxury? We argue it is a necessity and a budding advantage in today’s ‘ADD generation’. 
 
In contemplating how we increasingly need to “Breathe Deep” – to be mindful, get sleep, address stress, and not take life so seriously – I started contemplating the word deep and all the ways we talk about it: “digging deep”, “reaching deep”, “going deep”, “breathing deep”. But what about: focusing deep, thinking deep, and working deep? 
 
Each day brings exponentially more distractions, and it can be hard to think straight with so much bobbing around in our heads. 
 
Billboard signs today are ever more distracting with flashing fancy lights (not just the ‘transition flip’ for those who recall). And don’t get me started on ‘quick’ attempts to check the weather or news online. Go to any major media outlet or online magazine and we are bombarded by pop-ups, videos, flashy things, and a quagmire of links tailored to grab our attention and interest (because it’s all per our online behavior & preferences). It’s a losing proposition. A quick peek at the weather turns into watching a video, then another, then going further down the online rabbit hole, until ultimately we forget why we were there in the first place… Nonsense! 
 
Sure, it may be fun for a moment to flit from one thing to the next, like the butterflies.. but oftentimes we end up far from where we need to be, and all the less productive for it. (Take it from a master flitter!) 
 
We even commend those who are ‘master multi-taskers’. But should we? 
 
The price we pay for multi-tasking
While we pride ourselves in multitasking and crisis management, science has shown time and again that we evolved to focus on one task at a time. There is a cost for task switching, and the tax we pay is in lost productivity and increased errors. Something that might take you 1.5 hours, for example, could end up taking far longer if you work on it for barely an hour and jump to another task, and then come back to it later. 
 
As task switching for many may be unavoidable, research has also confirmed tactics to help reduce (but not eliminate) the cost of lost productivity. 
 
One such tactic is a simple mental trick: to be mindful and explicit about the act of task switching itself. In short, we exert mental control, even if we do not have ultimate control over the situation. For example, when interrupted by an urgent situation that legitimately requires our attention, we can pause and say to ourselves: “while I need to get X done, I choose to help address Y and will come back to X as soon as I can.” 
 
For those of us who have the luxury of setting schedule and priorities for the day, a helpful tactic can be to establish the boundaries of task switching. For example, we could select two major items that we ‘choose’ to work on during focused time for the day. (In this block of time, I will work on either X or Y)  Staying off of email during these times is important, and we recommend checking email only during a few scheduled times that you dedicate to that end. We understand that customer service personnel and others may not have this luxury, but if it is reasonable for your occupation, a sound email strategy can work wonders for your focus and productivity. 
 
In either case, we recommend a mindful approach for focus, always starting with a few deep breaths. (“Breathe Deep”). 
 
And focus is a bare minimum requirement for going deep. 
 
Healthy Anywhere - Going Deeper
Going Deeper. Photo by Jakob Boman on Unplash.
 
 
Going deep means digging beyond the surface and the hype to see what else may also be true. 
 
I posit it involves ‘trying on’ different perspectives, notably the opposite of what we believe to be true. To look for truth in opposing views and to discover new understanding is a wise and worthy exercise – and one that seldom few put to practice. Be warned, this approach can get uncomfortable. However, we may eventually come to appreciate the uncomfortable ‘wincing’ or ‘squirming’ that just might indicate we are onto something, if we open ourselves up to consider it. 
 
In all we do at Healthy Anywhere – whether analyzing restaurants and ingredients, studying research, talking to experts, or learning from others – we work to keep this in mind and push ourselves in the pursuit of going deeper. 
 
This type of deep dedication does not end and will be a longstanding pursuit. Even seasoned ‘masters’ of multiple decades must push, even more so, for new depths. 
 
Going deep requires more focus and more time, hence it will require sacrifice. 
 
Are You ready to go Deep?
If you have an area or passion where you want to ‘go deep’, we humbly suggest the following: 
 
1) Have a detailed explanation for why you want to go deep. Is there a larger vision to keep you going? Write it down! Your future self someday may appreciate the reminder and motivation. Detail exactly who all might benefit from your pursuit. 
2) Schedule & Protect the time. (Important!) You may not be able to go fulltime in this pursuit, but if you don’t set aside the time you can all but assure problems and pitfalls in making this happen. 
3) Question everything! Always be Questioning. Even if you are near certain of a truth.. ask yourself how what you believe might not be true. What are the hidden truths around the edges you might discover? Map things out on a whiteboard or paper. You might consider a tool like a mind map to look for new connections or details you may have previously overlooked. 
 
Do you find yourself avoiding focused work? Is there one big block of time you need to plan and protect to complete something important — yet you find yourself procrastinating and pushing it off? Notice the tendency to avoid the deep dive and consider this a potential signal that what you have been avoiding may precisely be just the thing you need to get done! 
 
PS If you dug deep and read all the way to here, you are amazing – way to focus deep! Thank you for the generous gift of your attention. 

Healthy Anywhere helps executive travelers enjoy delicious, organic foods, and stay healthy, anywhere in the U.S. Our healthy concierge services include: travel nutrition and meal planning, food delivery, fitness support, and accountability. If you or someone you know would appreciate this level of support, get in touch to work with us.

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