It is exam week and I know many of you are panicked and short on time. Maybe you navigated over to our page in between checking Instagram, research, and reading the news. That happens, but now it is time to STOP and focus on one cognitively demanding task at a time. Cal Newport defines this type of work as “deep work.” If you are interested, we have his eBook Deep Work in the collection. TLDR, take a look at this much shorter synopsis of the book by Nina Semczuk.
Essentially deep work is all about working without distractions. It is mindfulness- or doing one task at a time. (Btw- we have a mindfulness exercise on the Finals Fest entry just below.) Just like any new task, you have to practice this to improve. You can practice mindfulness in short bursts using our video, so that you can engage with mindfully doing your school work, or…doing deep work, same thing.
That’s all well and good, but you are busy. Most of you work. Many of you have kids. Your time is precious and sleep little. All the more reason to make sure you are only doing schoolwork when you have the time to do that. Enough potatoes, let’s get to the beef, here is how you do deep work:
- Avoid social media (for now)
I’m painfully aware of how hard this is and will age myself when I say that I’m hopelessly addicted to Facebook. I’m a big fan of a Chrome plugin called Block Site. This plugin will allow you to add a list of blocked websites during periods of deep work. It will also set a timer for you to do deep work in cycles of time, defaulting to two sessions of 25 minutes with a break in between. How much can you get done during two sessions of 25 minutes? I wrote this blog entry during that time; that’s how much.
Another thing you can do is uninstall (or never install) social media from your phone. You’ll still be able to mindlessly scroll on your computer, but it will curb some of the impulse to “just check” and allow your mind to focus.
- Prioritize your time
“What’s important is seldom urgent, and what’s urgent is seldom important.”
I just learned that President Dwight Eisenhower was not only our 34th president, but a master of time management. This matrix was created based on the above quote as a method for you to triage what is worthy of your time, and what should be delegated to someone else.
The Eisenhower Matrix
During final exams, you’ll want to spend your time and energy on that upper-left-hand part of the matrix. Work on the tasks that are the most important AND urgent. You’ll want to avoid the tasks that are less important AND less urgent. There simply isn’t time; delegate these tasks to someone else.
What might this look like in practice?
-To focus on the most important AND urgent, make a list of all of your final projects. Do them in the order of deadlines.
-Avoid all tasks that are less important AND less urgent. If you are able, have someone else make dinner. If you live alone head to the drive-thru. Don’t worry about cleaning and just do the basics to remain hygienic.
-Try using an app to help you sort out important, less important, urgent, and less urgent tasks
- Set aside time to do the work
Set aside time to do your work, and then set a timer. Avoid doing any other tasks during that time. You probably won’t be able to do long stretches of time and that’s okay. Actually block out time on your calendar, or planner. It might be late at night and that’s okay too.
Lastly, you’ve got this. You are already doing something so hard, by going to school during a pandemic. By simply finishing finals, you deserve tremendous round of applause.