For deep work, the main problem is multitasking and jumping between projects. As Sophie Leroys analyzed in her study , multitasking results in attention residual , which is the inability of our mind to switch between two tasks instantly. Even if you think you can do it, your mind is not built to perform different jobs alternatively. In other words, if you have two tasks, A and B, when you try to switch from A to B, you still think about task A for some time before being able to focus on task B.
For flow instead, the problem is the mindset since it deals with the inability to track progress, define tasks, and avoiding a fear-breaks. This last problem, in particular, is the pause we take when a task is too complex.
Without good planning, a project advances twice slower. And since the purpose is to speed up the process, divide your projects into daily macro-tasks.
At the beginning of each project, take some time to split it up and approximately plan the work, leaving some blank spaces for eventual delays. Usually, I keep one (1/2 workdays) every slot of macro-tasks (1 to 6 days).
In any type of work it is essential to have sessions dedicated to work and rest. The subdivision of your workday depends on what you have to do.
Each session contains a particular task, and usually, each of them takes at least half a session. If you perform repetitive tasks, you need to track your time and keep statistics of how much time you spend on each of them, so you can efficiently stack it with the others and take the pauses when needed.
Short deadlines not only make you work harder to finish faster, but they also train you to reach the deep work state constantly. Also, some new tasks may add up to the estimated ones, so you may need those extra hours of work every now and then.
Make every task simple. Each time I have to make a work call, I convince myself it will last for a maximum of 10–15 minutes, even if it never does. In this way, I nullify any barrier my mind develops against that task.
A reliable tracking system is fundamental to switch between one task and another, maintaining flow. The better you track your progress – even in terms of required effort – the greater is the flow you will translate in the following task.
Another useful habit is to check your progress at the end of each day since it gives you the sense of progress that keeps your motivation high between days.
The most relevant part of flow is the ability to match skills with the complexity of the tasks. Every time you set a task, think about making it challenging enough it doesn’t bore you, but also not so harsh you give up on it.
There are two techniques of choosing the first task of the day.
Think about each task as an obstacle to jump, while flow is the power that adds up to your jumping skills.
With the first, you can hope your jumping power is strong enough to make the obstacles fall. With the second instead, you will always have enough jumping power to surpass lower tasks once you collected enough flow. The only problem is the first task, but if you matched its complexity with your skill, it shouldn’t bother you.
Scheduling is another problem that will make you lose a lot of time in the beginning.
Some people schedule before the session. This allows them to start knowing what they have to do, so they don’t lose time on scheduling. Still, they spend their free time thinking doing that.
Other people schedule at the beginning of the working week/day. This technique is better for their mental health, but it is worse for productivity since scheduling takes away time from the work session.
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