But in a recent Fast Company article, Georgetown Professor Cal Newport explains why focusing on deep and demanding tasks is critical for producing value and building the skills that promote success.
Bouncing around from task to task actually deteriorates the muscle that allows us to focus, Newport says, and the more we multitask, the less comfortable we are with going deep for extended periods of time. In fact, multitasking is addictive as well as damaging, he writes in his new book, “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.”
“It’s deep tasks that produce the value and build the skills that get you promoted,” he says.
While multitasking was once thought to be the skill we needed to master to get ahead, thought leaders today laud the “attention economy,” in which the ability to maintain focus and concentration are as important to workplace wins as technical or management skills.
So what do successful business leaders do to be both focused and productive?
- Be Mindful
Training our brains to focus better is called mindfulness, and by practicing it throughout the workday successful leaders achieve enhanced focus and awareness in both work and life. Mindfulness begins even before getting out of bed and continues throughout the day with focus on breathing and minimization of distractions.
- Focus on Long Term Goals
Effective leaders have clear goals and a vision for the long-term achievements they desire. They focus on what matters and apply their efforts accordingly.
- Set Daily Goals
Not only do high achievers plan their days by listing to-dos and appointments, they set goals for what they want to accomplish in each project and meeting.
- Face Undesirable Tasks
“Eating a frog” means doing the one task first that is both urgent and undesirable. By eating a frog first thing in the morning, efficient leaders accomplish the most important task and move ahead forcefully into the rest of the day.
- Overcome Procrastination
Overcoming procrastination, essential for high performance, ties in with eating the frog. When successful people face their most urgent tasks, they tackle them without hesitation and let go of the perfectionism that gets in the way of completing big projects.
Highly productive people internalize and act upon deep concentration in challenging tasks. They leave gaps in their schedules to ensure both ‘thinking time’ and productivity. Ultimately they know that whatever leftover time they might have will be used wisely.