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October 1, 2019

Time Management in College Admissions Using Deep Work and Time Blocking

Deep Work is professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their optimal level. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

Cal Newport

Deep Work, a term coined by MIT graduate and Computer Science Associate Professor at Georgetown University Cal Newport, was developed to highlight a technique which optimizes outcomes for individuals where high performance is rare and valued. One example in Newport’s book illustrates Adam Grant, the youngest professor ever awarded tenure at the University of Pennsylvania. Grant achieved his rapid rise in university rank with uncommon speed because of the high quality and prolific rate of his research articles published in major journals, seven in 2012 alone, an amazing feat. One feature of Grant’s success is his ability to parcel his academic terms, teaching in the fall with full commitment to research and publishing in the winter, spring and summer. Thus, he is able to “go deep” and focus on his research priorities without the typical distractions. Multitasking is not an option for Grant. Do one thing at a time; and do it well.

    • You’ve noticed many of your friends and colleagues expect you to respond immediately to an email, FB or Instagram post
    • Your boss may want you to work in an open space office environment with constant distractions throughout the day
    • Unfortunately, it is not enough to try to ignore distractions, since we are hardwired to be distracted
    • According to Hofmann and Baumeiser, most are only able to resist the temptation to check emails, surf the internet about 50% of the time. No wonder we don’t get much done.

Advantages of Deep Work

  • Facilitates your progression toward becoming a superstar in your field
  • Allows you to master difficult skills, acquire complex knowledge
  • Since deep work is exceedingly rare, it is exceedingly valuable

What is Deep Work?

    • It is a process working smarter, not harder
    • Deep Work follows the ‘new’ Law of Productivity and is defined as:
      • High Quality Work = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)
    • Mastering complex information complicated processes require your full attention over long stretches of time
    • Deep Work takes advantage of your brain’s ability to concentrate, while minimizing the mind’s susceptibility to distractions
    • Deep Work improves your ability to master skills and understand concepts
    • Those that make Deep Work the core of their lives perform at rare and elite levels
    • You can study ten hours over the weekend in a distracting environment with 4 level of focus. To the contrary, you can study four hours over the weekend with a 10 level of focus. Obviously, the second scenario is more efficient, noteworthy and valuable

Deep Work: The Process

  • Select Your Deep Work Philosophy
    • A Isolate yourself for long periods of time; For example, go on Sabbatical for weeks and months at a time focusing on one project;
    • B Divide your time into clearly defined periods; For example, one to three full, consecutive days per week

where you work solely on your priority;

    • C Set aside 3 – 4 hours per day, every day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday day to develop a particular skill or project; or
    • D Alternate your day between continuous periods of deep and shallow work; perhaps deep work in the mornings, and shallow work in afternoons
  • Make Deep Work a Habit For Better Time Management
    • Move beyond good intentions; Schedule your Deep Work blocks on your calendar
    • By committing to weekly and monthly routines, you minimize wasting your willpower deciding when to work, where to work and for how long; Since it is a recurring block on your calendar, it soon becomes a routine, a habit
    • Usually to ingrain a new habit takes about 60 days
    • To work best, decide to study or work at isolated & quite locations, such as the library or a quiet conference room. A dorm room is not ideal because the brain intuitively feels the bedroom is for sleeping. Since some party and study in the dorm room, the brain is confused.
  • Schedule Your Distractions
    • Is your phone always in your hand? Are you tempted randomly to check your FaceBook and Instagram accounts for the latest updates? People with efficient time – management skills schedule specific times to check emails, news feed and social media to specific times of the day; for example at 8am, 1pm and 8pm. They may even check text messages hourly or every other hour. There are no exceptions.
  • Time Block
    • Who uses Deep Work with great outcomes? Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates! Who utilizes Time Blocking with great effects? Tesla and Space X Founder, billionaire Elon Musk. To re-iterate, when your priorities become recurring items on your calendar, you advance these action items into accomplishments. To optimize your outcomes, be sure to set specific end times as well; No opened ended time-frames
  • Develop Your Rhythmic Deep Work Ritual
    • Set up a four-hour session; parceled into 25 to 50 minute intervals. Be sure to take 5 – 10 minute breaks between each interval to re-charge your battery, go to the bathroom, check text messages, stretch, or whatever. The break will re-invigorate your mind and spirit
    • Mornings are usually best for Deep Work as you are refreshed from a full night of sleep; Moreover, there are typically fewer distractions in the morning
  • Why a Daily Shutdown Ritual?
    • To ensure that you get enough restful sleep, and to be alert and optimal for the next day’s challenges
    • The Shut Down Ritual is about 30 minutes prior to bedtime
    • The process includes checking today’s calendar for unfinished tasks, re-scheduling them on the calendar
    • Then ask these questions: Where did you underperform? Then contemplate how can you improve going forward? What did you perform at a high level, and how can that be improved going forward?
    • Finally, shut down your computer, place your phone on airplane mode 30 minutes before bedtime and say to yourself, “shut down complete.” Now you can slide into relaxation mode, perhaps read a good book, take a shower, and prepare for bedtime
  • Decide on your Deep Work Rules
    • Establish rules to keep your Deep Work structured such as:
      • Banning Internet
      • Drink your favorite coffee
      • Block notification pop ups
      • Turn phone on airplane mode,
      • Face the wall
      • Use noise cancelling head phones
      • Bring healthy snacks
      • Keep a notepad to jot down notes when distractions pop up in order to remember them and to address them later
      • Listen to Classical or other lyric-less Music

Final Thoughts

  • A small percentage of people are consistently successful and prosper. They are Superstars in their fields because they master difficult things and consistently produce at an elite level in terms of quality and speed. Why aren’t more people successful? Because Deep Work is hard and Shallow Work is easy.
  • This is why Deep Work and Time Blocking are essential for success.
  • Would you gain from further self-development? Contact MHA now. We can help!

Michael Richardson, MD | resource: Dan Silvestre October 1, 2019