It's easy to prioritize the millions of messages coming at you every day, a constant barrage of email, text, Slack. You tell yourself you'll just respond quickly and get back to the task at hand. But for those of us that depend on our brains to produce quality creative work, we're doing ourselves a disservice by not carving out and protecting time devoted to that work.
I regularly block a chunk of time in my calendar – a minimum of two hours, more if I can – to focus on a project. Much of the time I actually let teammates know I'll be unavailable, turn off my email and other messages, and find a quiet place outside to deeply immerse myself. But it inevitably happens that at times I get pulled into distractions, bouncing in and out of the project and never giving it full attention. I then have to find more time to go back to the project so I can find that "flow state" when the creative juices are really running.
Shankar Vedantam's interview with Cal Newport of Georgetown University on the Hidden Brain podcast reinforced my commitment to treating my time for creative thinking as sacred. Distraction in the digital age is part of our working life, it's true. But we don't have to let it dictate the direction of our day, our work, our life. Let's be purposeful in how we use our most precious resource – our brain – and we can increase the value in produces for us.
People I think intuit that they're too distracted, and it's making them feel fragmented and exhausted and anxious. But we treat it, I think, in this more general sense of, I probably should be less distracted. And I think it's more urgent than people realize, that if your brain is how you make a living, then you really have to worry about this cognitive fitness. I mean, how are you getting performance out of your brain? Are you taking care to get good performance out of your brain or not? And people would probably be surprised, the more they think about it, you know, how much they're leaving on the table by the way they're currently working right now.