I've committed to completing the first draft of my manuscript by the end of March. To maintain the momentum and prepare for my book launch while successfully working on other creative projects, I am diving headfirst into what Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”, describes as deep work.
Deep work requires space for creative thinking and output. It’s a state where your concentration is at an all-time high. It’s when you’re able to learn hard things and create quality work. Newport’s deep work theory suggests that we can be productive if we aim for 60-90 minutes that are free of distractions. It can be done.
Here are some practices that I use that will may you get into your flow, dive into deep work, and maximize your creative output and productivity.
Getting up an hour earlier to invest in my well-being is something I love. During the early morning hours, I take advantage of the time to calmly set the course of my day and move at a snail's pace. I use the extra time to pray and write articles or chapters for my book. Besides, I am the most productive and creative while everyone is asleep. It's when silence ushers in the opportunity for me to be immersed in deep work after I’ve invested some time to show myself some love and grace.
You can use the extra time in the morning to bring yourself into balance throughout the day, regardless of whether you wake up an hour early or even 30 minutes earlier. You can:
Pray and meditate
Read a book
Practice deep breathing
Listen to music
Invest more time into your self-care
On the Clock
Not all hours of the day or days of the week are created equal. There are times during the day when our brains are on fire and then at other times, we’re just taking up space. The same truth applies to days of the week. What most people are not aware of is our body runs on a clock called the circadian rhythm. This internal clock influences mental and physical changes in our bodies throughout the day or week.
I used to think being a morning person meant you just couldn’t sleep in like other people. For as long as I can remember, I woke up early and couldn’t pay myself to go back to sleep. So, I got out of bed. However, it took years before I understood that I wasn’t waking up to just wake up. That time was time to be used to doing something productive. Then, I started noticing how I felt early in the morning. It’s when I’m the most productive and creative as well. It’s when my brain is free from worrying about what’s next. I learned to embrace my rhythm and flow.
How can you find out when you’re the most productive or creative? By asking questions like the ones below.
Track your energy levels. What times of the day do you feel the most energy? What day of the week?
When are you the most focused and ready to conquer the world? When are you feeling the most “blah”?
Once you’ve discovered when you’re most productive or creative, check in with yourselves with these tips.
Limit distraction by disconnecting from social media, and email and stop looking at your phone. It's easier said than done. I know.
Avoid multi-tasking so that your brain can focus on one activity at a time.
Make this time of productivity a priority by planning your day or schedule around it.
Shut It Down
If you’re an early bird like me, you’ve started your day a bit earlier to invest in yourself. You’ve discovered and accepted the time block in which you’re the most productive or creative and have accomplished some goals. Great! Now, it’s time to think about when and how to shut everything down.
Establishing a shutdown ritual or routine gives closure to the workday. It communicates to your brain that it’s time to slow down and breathe again. This routine sets work-life boundaries which can be honored regardless of when you’re the most productive during the day.
Here are examples of what you can implement into your daily, shutdown routine.
Choose a time to check the last email for the day. Trust me, they will be waiting for you tomorrow so get out of that inbox.
Review what’s on your calendar for tomorrow and update your to-do list if needed. I typically wait until the next day to do this but it’s perfectly fine to do this at the end of your day.
Shut down your computer or put it to sleep. If you need it for personal use, turn off all email and message notifications. Do the same for your phone and tablet.
Clean up your work area to give yourself a fresh start in the morning.
Get up from your desk, get out of your workspace and enjoy the rest of your day or night.
Get Some Rest
Sleep is important and we all know it. However, don’t bypass rest for some shut-eye. Rest involves your whole being and not just your body. Proper rest will restore your health, enhance your performance and help you be well.
Here are some ideas that may help you rest before you go night night.
Turn the TV off and disconnect from your phone. Phones have settings like Personal and Do Not Disturb. Use them.
Wear something comfy. After you’ve taken a shower or long bath, be intentional about the fabric of the clothes you are wearing.
Stretch and deep breathe
Pray and meditate
Read a good book
You may have noticed that I try to start and end my day peacefully and calmly. Do all of these practices work every day? Absolutely not. However, it is still worth it to commit to finding your rhythm and flow to be more productive, creative and of course, well.