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In this episode, I dive into the secrets of deep work and achieving a flow state to maximize productivity. I start by defining shallow work, where distractions dominate, and compare it to the focused, distraction-free concentration of deep work. Drawing inspiration from Cal Newport’s Deep Work and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow, I explore the benefits of deep work, from heightened energy to reduced cognitive load.

I share personal strategies to cultivate deep work, including planning your day, using timers, and managing distractions. I also discuss optimizing your schedule based on energy levels and effective meeting strategies to maintain focus. Whether you’re balancing volunteer work or client tasks, planning and focus are key to achieving more in less time. Tune in to discover how deep work can transform your productivity and stay tuned for the next episode on tackling the myth of perfection.

Transcript
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Do you ever wonder why some days you get more done in a few hours than an entire week?

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The secret lies in mastering deep work and tapping into your flow state.

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Stick around to learn how you can unlock this productivity superpower.

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Many of us struggle with distractions and constant interruptions that keep us from achieving our best work.

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It can feel nearly impossible to focus deeply on one task for an extended period of time.

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In this episode, you'll learn what deep work and flow state are, they're crucial for productivity, and how to cultivate them in your daily routine.

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I'm Amin Ahmed, and welcome to Be Well, Do Well.

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Now before we start talking about deep work, let's talk about what deep work is not.

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And I'm going to refer to this as shallow work.

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Shallow work is where you are constantly distracted, having multiple conversations at the same time, through maybe email, WhatsApp, social media.

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And the outcome of shallow work is that you move in multiple directions, you're probably moving fast, but you're hardly making any progress at all.

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You're not finishing projects, and you're really just doing one task after another.

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So then what exactly is deep work?

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Well deep work refers to performing a task or a series of tasks in a state of distraction free concentration.

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I want you to remember that phrase, distraction free concentration.

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There's no multitasking, there's no context switching,

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and most importantly you're timing your progress using something like a Pomodoro timer or a time timer app on your phone.

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Cal Newport is the author of a book called Deep Work.

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Here's what he has to say about the importance of deep work.

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The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy.

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As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill and then make it the core of their working life will thrive.

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I absolutely love this quote from the book because it shows us just how rare focus and concentration are.

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Now let's talk a little bit about what happens when you do deep work.

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In the book titled Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, he talks about achieving a flow state.

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In this state of flow, you feel more energized.

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You reduce your cognitive load, meaning the overwhelm that you may feel when you have multiple tasks to jump back and forth between.

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You get more done and you definitely feel more in control of your life.

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This is also a really good book and I highly recommend you get the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as well.

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Now I think everyone can agree that having more energy, feeling less overwhelmed, getting more done, these are all things that we want in our lives.

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So how do you actually get into flow?

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And how do you do deep work?

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So here are a couple of strategies that I've used personally in my life.

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The first is to plan your day ahead of time.

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When you dedicate specific time blocks during your day that are free from distractions and you can concentrate on finishing one task or one project at a time, make sure that you're also timing these.

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Now I mentioned in the intro that I like to use something like the Pomodoro app or a physical Pomodoro timer.

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But you can also use a digital timer and Windows has one built in.

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I'm sure I'm not a Mac user, but I'm sure Mac has something similar.

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And there's one that I really like using.

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And it's great for families that have kids.

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It's called Time Timer, and it's a great visual way to see how much time is elapsed and how much time is left.

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The other part is also to track your deep work sessions.

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So get a log book, maybe put it in your calendar and mark down how many of your deep work sessions you completed in a day.

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I personally like to have three 90 minute sessions in a day, and I feel like that is the optimal amount for me to get as much work done as I can without feeling tired at the end of the day.

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Another strategy to help you prevent getting distracted is to have a single place for a brain dump.

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Sometimes you'll have an idea or you'll get a message, and you'll want And you feel like the need to act on the message.

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Currently, I'm doing some volunteer work and I'm on a couple of boards and I get messages throughout the day.

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Rather than acting on them, I'll use the starred or unread feature in my messages or my WhatsApp app in order to flag them for later . If you're working during times that you don't have much energy, you're not going to get as much done.

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So plan your work when you have the most amount of energy and plan admin tasks, maybe just going through emails, paying bills.

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Those are things that you can do during your downtime.

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Now, lastly, I just want to talk about meetings.

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It's really hard, especially now after the pandemic to get into the flow because we're so used to having multiple zoom meetings throughout the day.

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One strategy that I have in order to help me Not get distracted around meetings is to set some time to prepare prior to the meeting and some time after to action the tasks that came up from the meeting.

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One thing I like to tell any of the participants in the meeting is no agenda, no attenda.

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So if you go into a meeting and there's no agenda, I'm going to do my best not to attend because then it just becomes a brainstorming or a chatting session.

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And if there's no agenda, it's really hard to stay on track.

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Set some time before to prepare an agenda to work off of during a meeting.

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And once the meeting is done, don't just jump into another meeting.

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Don't just jump into another task, but spend another 10 or 15 minutes once the meeting is complete and action the tasks that you have.

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I mentioned earlier that I'm doing some volunteer work right now.

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The thing about volunteer work is that it doesn't really have a start time or an end time.

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I like to go to sleep early, but during the times that I'm on volunteer committees or boards, we end up doing a lot of work outside of work hours.

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So it's not uncommon for me to have a meeting at 9 or 10 o'clock at night, because that's when people are available.

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Especially when you're working across the country on multiple time zones, you do have to plan around other people's time zones as well.

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If I were to rewind back a few months where I wasn't doing any volunteer work, my workday was pretty clear cut.

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I'd get up in the morning, spend some time working, get my kids ready for school, continue working.

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Then around the end of the day, I'd pause to go get my kids back home, and then work for a little bit longer before stopping for dinner.

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And then that was it for me, for my workday.

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Now, the thing that happened is I got asked to be on one volunteer committee, then another, and another.

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Before I knew it, I had committed to three big things.

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I found that it was really challenging for me to keep up with either the volunteer work or the client work when I don't plan my day.

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There was a couple of days that went by where I was so overwhelmed with so many different things to do going in different directions that I thought, let me just try not planning my day and just blasting through everything that I had.

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If you do that, you're going to move in multiple directions really fast and make no progress.

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And that's exactly what happened.

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Wednesday came around and I found that Monday passed, Tuesday passed, and I really hadn't made a significant dent in any of the projects that I was working on.

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So I decided, No more of that.

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Wednesday is here.

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I need to sit down and plan my day.

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Now I did lose about half a day because I had to then go back and review all the work that I did and what I had to do.

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And it ended up actually putting me back a little bit.

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But then when Thursday and Friday came around, I was so focused that I was able to get all the work done that I needed to in actually only half the week's time.

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And that's the power of focus.

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And that's the power of deep work.

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You don't actually need 40 hours, 60 hours, 80 hours a week to get your work done.

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I hope this has inspired you to explore the power of deep work and flow state and how this has an impact, a massive impact on your productivity.

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Remember to schedule dedicated time for deep work, minimize your distractions as best as you can, and set clear goals on what being done means.

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In our next episode, we'll tackle the myth of perfection and how striving for perfection and sometimes hinder your progress.

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Thanks for joining me today and I'll see you next time