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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Getting work done with “deep focus”

With midterms and spring break having come and gone, and while we are all eagerly looking forward to summer, we seem to neglect the last two months of school. Either school work is done while simultaneously scrolling through TikTok, or ignored altogether. It’s difficult to find motivation, especially when all of your peers are facing the same trouble with completing assignments on time. So how can you find motivation during these last few months?

Well, there is a concept called “deep focus” that answers this lifelong question. In the book by Cal Newport under the same title, he calls this idea one of the most rare and valuable skills of our generation. Essentially, deep focus is the ability to produce high quality work in a small amount of time, using intense focus. Newport describes it as “pushing your cognitive abilities to their limit,” creating a product that is “hard to replicate.” The purpose is to live a meaningful and intentional life.

If you are like me, you are doing multiple things at once, going full speed at all times. This is what Newport calls shallow work, completing tasks without devoting your full attention to it. Only doing shallow work leads to no real progress towards your academic or professional goals.

Exclusively producing deep work sounds unachievable to the average person, but really it’s not much of a reach. To start building this skill, you just need to start practicing mindfulness. Meditation is a common way of practicing this, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Taking a step back from social media and its constant stream of information could be your first challenge. Then doing something that you enjoy away from technology. If you don’t have any hobbies away from technology, try to find one. You could cook, read, exercise or even journal—really doing anything that can take your whole focus.

You will have mastered mindfulness once you can devote your full attention to one task without any distraction. This is tough and takes time, but it is possible. Once you can successfully be mindful, then you must apply that to your school life by creating a habit. Reflect on what environment produces your best work. Contemplate on what this environment sounds like, looks like and feels like. It differs between every person so you cannot copy how others focus. Then find a location that meets your needs and solely work there. This could be somewhere in your home, a coffee shop or a library.

After finding your location, set a specific time you will practice deep focus—whether this is bi-weekly, every other day or just mornings—and set a duration for which you will be working. Starting small can be really beneficial. Newport says that a person can only deep focus for a maximum of four hours before needing to rest. Create rules for this working environment. Limit the times you get up to grab food or check your phone. You can even create rewards for yourself only after you have completed your set time of work.

Quality resting is just as vital to this routine as the work itself. Before beginning your restful period, write down everything you did not accomplish and set a plan for how you can accomplish it later. This way, you will not be anxious about what you have yet to complete. Then find out how resting can fully rejuvenate you. This could be socialization or movement—anything that does not bring you any negative emotions and restores you to your refreshed state.

Building this skill is the key to a happy and productive life. After all, life is a constant cycle of self-improvement.

About the Contributor
Rena Weafer, Arts Editor