Tell me how familiar this sounds to you.
You've got some work to do, so you pack up your backpack.
You find the perfect study space,
perfect amount of sunlight, plenty of space to work in,
a little bit of nature thrown in,
a fatherly picture of Nick Offerman staring down at you.
You brew yourself a fresh cup of coffee.
On go the noise-canceling headphones,
and you find yourself an excellently tailored study playlist
to accompany your impending deep dive into the practical
uses of l'hopital's rule rule for Monday's calc assignment.
Everything is set up perfectly for you to start
doing some good old fashioned deep work, and then...
- [Friend] Oh hey Tom, productivity guru,
is that, uh, is that the IKEA cabinet planner?
- No uh, it's for research.
- [Friend] You're disgusting.
- Now I know what you're thinking.
- It's too real Roy, it's too real!
- It's the same thing that I think all the time,
how can I make sure that when I sit down to
do my work, I actually do my work instead of
falling into a distracted rut?
After all, just sitting down at my desk isn't gonna result
in really anything getting done.
One of my favorite lines in Cal Newport's book
Deep Work is his productivity equation.
Time times intensity of focus equals
quality of work produced.
One of his case studies in the book, Peter Roosevelt,
though at this time a freshman at Harvard University,
knew this rule really really well.
His biographer Edmund Morris wrote that every single day
Roosevelt would look at his schedule between the hours of
8:30 and 4:30 and block off everything
that was already scheduled.
Things like classes, recitations, lunch,
and his athletic training.
Anything leftover was time spent for studying.
And Morris noted that these fragments didn't usually
add up to a large number of total hours but
he would get the most out of them by working only
on schoolwork during these periods
and doing so with a blistering intensity.
So the question that we wanna answer today is
how do you achieve that ability to work with that
blistering intensity like Roosevelt did?
And hopefully the following seven tips that I have compiled
will help you get started.
First off, when you go into a work session,
have a single target of focus.
One of my biggest pitfalls in my professional life
is that I'll wake up in the morning and
I'll create a list of things I need to do but then
when I sit down, I don't choose one to work on.
I get confused and I don't really know which one
that I wanna start with which leads to me just getting
distracted and looking at car specs on the internet.
So, one piece of advice that I'm really trying
to apply in my own life and that you should too is that
before you earnestly start a work session,
decide on the one task that you're going to work on,
this creates limitations for yourself which can be
very, very helpful as is emphasized by
one of my favorite quotes from all time
which comes from the I Ching
"Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man,
if they existed his life would only
dissolve in the boundless.
To become strong, a mans life needs limitation
ordained by duty and voluntarily accepted."
Now there is a lot more that could be said
about this passage as it applies to many, many
areas of life but in this particular context,
just remember that one particular single focus
creates limitation that narrows and strengthens
your level of focus.
Tip number two is to keep the work session sacred
and what I mean by this is that when you sit down
to do you work and you've chosen your one task,
only work on that task.
Don't do anything before even if it's light,
even if its checking your email, even if its
watching a little video on YouTube or even if it's eating.
So this comes from a common pitfall that I've noticed
in my own work.
I will get it into my head that I need to go
to a coffee shop because that's my favorite place to focus
so I will go to Starbucks and then sometimes I'm a little
hungry so I'll get like a little breakfast sandwich,
one of those little protein packs and a coffee,
and of course I don't wanna do real work while I'm eating
so I'll look at Reddit or I'll look at YouTube or
I'll do something really really light while I
eat that sandwich.
The problem is, now I've gotten myself into a distracted rut
and it's very hard for me to transition myself
into the real work that I actually went to Starbucks to do.
So the change for me is eat breakfast at home or eat
whatever meal it is at home and then only go
to the coffee shop to get coffee and to do work, no food.
A third way to keep your level of focus high is to ensure
that you're using the right tools and maintaining them.
I love to cook, it's one of my favorite things to do
at night when I'm done working.
But one of the things that can make me really not
want to cook is a dull chef's knife.
If you've ever tried to cut an onion or an eggplant
or really anything with a dull knife it is not fun to do
at all and actually it's pretty dangerous as well.
Now on occasions in the past, I've let my knife
get dull and a lot of times when that happens,
I'll start using it and I'll start cooking a meal
but then I'll get frustrated and then we'll just end up
ordering take out.
So I've learned that if I wanna be cooking
on a consistent basis, which I do because it's healthy
and it's fun to do, I need to sharpen my knife
on a consistent basis as well.
Every couple weeks or every month at the very least.
Now this doesn't mean that you need to wait around
to have the perfect tools to start doing your work
because that is a road you don't wanna go down.
But just like a knife's edge dulls a little bit
every single time you use it, something like say
your computer's file system, gets unorganized
every time you use it.
So build a little time in your schedule to maintain
the tools that you already have and if an opportunity
presents itself to acquire a better tool that's not gonna
take a ton of time or resources, take it.
Now for the fourth and least fun tip on this list.
If you want to work with that blistering level of intensity,
if you wanna be like Teddy Roosevelt, you need to practice.
An intense work ethic is something that is built over time
just like the calluses on the hands of a lumberjack.
When you start out you might be able to focus intensely for
say 20 minutes, but day after day after you keep doing it
again and again, that ability is going to
grow and strengthen.
A couple of years ago I realized that I wasn't reading
as many books as I wanted to, so I bet my friend Martin
100 dollars that I would read 25 pages every single day
for three months.
When that challenge started, I found it really hard to read
25 pages a day especially if the book that I had selected
was really technical or detail oriented but something
interesting happened as the months went on.
Later in the challenge I found it really easy to
intensely focus on those 25 pages even if they took
a full hour to read until I was done.
So if your initial attempts to work with that intense
level of focus seem difficult, just remember that over time
it's going to get easier and your ability to do it
is going to improve.
Tip number five is to use timers to guide your work but
leave some buffer room at the end of those timers
in your schedule.
Now I talk a lot on the channel about
the Pomodoro technique, setting a timer for 25 minutes
and working on that single task you selected and
nothing else until the timer goes off.
But a lot of people seem to think that they're obligated
to take a break at the end of that Pomodoro session
and I don't do this.
For me, the Pomodoro session is just a way to get started,
to overcome that initial resistance to doing the work.
But once I get into it, I often work for an hour or more.
I ignore the timer when it goes off.
The thing is, it can really take some time to get into
that state of mind where you're
really intensely focused on your task.
You can't do it within five or ten minutes so again,
the Pomodoro technique is just a way
to get yourself started.
Let yourself work past the end of that timer.
That being said don't give yourself too much time either.
Because time pressure can be a very powerful motivator.
As the author Adriana Trigiani once said,
"There's nothing an artist needs more,
even more than excellent tools and stamina,
than a deadline."
Our sixth principle was best expressed by the artist
"Without great solitude, no serious work is possible."
If you want to be able to focus on your work intensely
and get really good creative work done, for the most part
you need to be doing it alone.
Now there are obviously caveats to this,
a lot of good collaborative work is done in teams.
But often the best way the teams work is by coming together
for short little bursts, communicating, collaborating
and then having everyone go off to work in solitude
to really focus on their assigned part of the project.
And there are even some times when working together
with a partner for a full work session does work well.
When I took statistics back in my sophomore year,
I did have a partner who would come to my dorm every
single time we had an assignment, we would do it
together but what I concluded about that experience is
number one, I wasn't good friends with this person at all,
she would show up, we would do our work, and that was
basically the extent of our relationship.
And secondly, statistics is a particular kind of subject
where you can kind of come to the answer very logically.
Math works that way.
But if you were writing something or doing something
that requires more of a creative mindset,
it's better to do it alone.
And to reiterate, that statistics partner was somebody
I didn't really know well.
A lot of times, working with study partners means
that you're working with friends which means
the conversation inevitably drifts into other things
besides your assignment.
And finally tip number seven,
give yourself time for recovery.
Nobody can work intensely all the time and if you try to
you're eventually going to burn out.
So take advantage of the flip side of
that productivity equation.
If you wanna have intense focus, you use a little bit
of time on your studies and the time left over you can use
to relax, you can use to play video games or
pursue something that's really interesting to you
or hang out with friends.
All that time spent relaxing may not seem productive
in the moment but it's gonna leave you refreshed and
able to focus with that all important blistering intensity
the next time that you do need to work.
Now in addition to all the practices that we've gone over
in this video, another essential ingredient in the formula
for intense focus is interest.
Without some amount of interest in your subject,
your brain is gonna resist all of your attempts
to focus on it.
And one of the best ways to spark that interest is to
give yourself a challenge, something to actively work on.
That's why you should check out Brilliant.
Especially if you're at all interested in
improving your mastery and anything related to
math, science, or computer science.
Brilliant is a learning platform built around
the principle of active learning and throughout the courses
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and many many more, you'll find yourself immediately
presented with challenges that build interest
and encourage the intense focus that's crucial
for efficient learning.
For example, in the first ten minutes of their
into to probability course I found myself having to learn
how to multiply probabilities.
In a normal classroom I probably would've had to start out
by introducing myself to the class,
telling everyone my favorite dog is and then passively
sitting through a lecture for quite a while
before actively being challenged.
And while this active approach to learning will help you
more quickly reach mastery of the specific
concepts you're studying, it all serves as crucial practice
for building a mental framework that will allow you to apply
your critical reasoning skills to any problem you face
in the future.
It makes you a flexible thinker.
So if you wanna start learning more effectively
I highly recommend giving Brilliant a try.
You can use the link down in the description below
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I wanna give a huge thanks to Brilliant for sponsoring
this video and helping to support this channel and
as always thank you guys so much for watching.
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and I will see you guys in the next video.