Last month, Cal Newport and I released a new course, Life of Focus. The course covers three months dedicated to cultivating focus in three areas: work, life and mind.
One thing that makes a course like this different is that it centers on month-long challenges. Thus even if you’re already relatively focused, you can use the course as a tool to train yourself to go even deeper.
It was in that spirit that I decided I wanted to participate in the course alongside the other students for the first session. I also wanted to share some of my insights from each phase of the course to give you some tips (even if you weren’t able to join us for the first session).
Focus: Then and Now
I’ve always been pretty good at staying concentrated while working. During the MIT Challenge, 8+ hours with only relatively brief breaks were common for me. Focus was such an important part of my projects, that I devoted an entire chapter to it in my book.
However, my life has changed in a couple ways that have introduced new challenges to focus.
First, as my business has grown, shallow work obligations have grown with it. One of the ironies of launching this course is that the success of the course led to a ton of shallow work. Suddenly there were hundreds of course comments from students that I wanted to assist. While this burst was unusually large, it’s not unusual for me to get hundreds of emails per day.
Second, becoming a father has made working at home more challenging. I’m no longer alone at home for most of the day, and the global pandemic situation has made me reluctant to work in public spaces like cafes.
Thus, I’m happy I got the chance to focus on focus for this month, as some of my working rhythms and routines had slipped from the ideal as my life had changed.
Focused Work Successes and Progress
My first step was to start logging my deep work hours meticulously. In the past, I had done more comprehensive timelogs, but I found them too tedious to sustain. Keeping a deep work tally is a lot easier, however, and makes the amount of focused work you’re doing more clear.