How do you achieve great results on the Important but not urgent tasks? You create time for Deep focus. I first encountered the concept of Deep focus in the aptly named book Deep Focus: Rules for focused success in a distracted world by Cal Newport. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend adding it to your reading list.
The idea behind deep focus is an individual will get more done in a single hour of focus-driven work on a single task than they would in ten hours of shallow focus split across different tasks. If you want to get more done, you not only need to first create time for it, you also need to make sure that time is quiet and focused time.
Productivity = Time spent * Intensity of Focus
Since the amount of time you have each day is constant, you will achieve better results by improving the intensity of your focus.
This concept is best illustrated with an example. How many online courses have you signed up for this year? How many of them have you finished? How many do you intend to finish? Or have you given up on any completing your online course backlog? I pride myself on never having left any online course I signed up for incomplete. I always finish them.
Online courses are a good example of an important and not urgent task. They are a good test of your ability to complete an important task without anyone looking over your shoulder. People identify a need to fill a skill gap. They search for and enrol in an online course. Then life gets in the way. They have to go to work, take the children to school, cook, do the laundry and stay sane. Gradually, they stop taking the course. After a few months, they identify another skill gap and enrol for a new course. The cycle continues.
How do I complete my online courses? There is no magic formula. I simply wake up an hour before I have to in the morning (4am), make a cup of tea and sit down for one hour of uninterrupted learning. During that time, my phone’s mobile connection, which I would have turned off the night before stays off. It’s too early in the day for me to call anyone and most people are still in bed anyway so I am not likely to get distracted. By the time, people start waking up, I would have completed an hour of focus-driven and uninterrupted learning. The sense of achievement also provides a powerful mood boost for the rest of the day. No matter how hectic it gets, I know I achieved one important thing that day.
What is the important task you have identified? Pick an hour when you are least likely to get interrupted. For most people, this will be either late at night or early in the morning. Turn off your phone’s internet. Work on that task for one hour. DO NOT DO ANYTHING ELSE DURING THAT TIME. Repeat the following day. You will achieve a lot more this way than you ever could with a haphazard “plan.”