How I learnt the value of deep work

During the imperative work from home routine, tackling the most important tasks during my most productive period was crucial to enable me to have time for self-development and self-care.

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Doing the most important tasks during my most productive periods improved work quality greatly.
Doing the most important tasks during my most productive periods improved work quality greatly.

The coronavirus pandemic forced many Singaporeans, myself included, to wok from home (WFH) as part of the efforts to contain and eliminate the virus spread among the population.

The WFH period also coincided with increased workloads as the newspapers in the media company where I worked came up with numerous initiatives to drum up advertising sales and boost revenue.

Every working day was a busy load of duties and assignments, from the moment I logged on until several hours after I was supposed to log off. In fact, it seemed that my colleagues and I never really logged off as clients and advertisers communicated via e-mail at odd hours and expected quick replies.

I realised that my colleagues and I would be burnt out if I continued to fight every fire that came our way. I soon realised that I was most productive and at my prime thinking and analytical capacity between 8am and 2pm daily.

I wondered if it would be possible to analyse my work schedule and assignments and then arrange the work such that the hardest and/or most important assignments or projects during my productive 8am-2pm window.

After some trial and error and communication with management and clients, I prioritised the projects assigned to me and did the most important and hardest ones between 8am and 2pm.

I was putting the principles of Deep Work into practice – what Cal Newport defined in his book of the same title as “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task”.

The results were almost immediate. Clients wrote to me and my head about how they saw more clarity and better, more in-depth description and development of the projects. They felt that the work showed a new dimension that “took the work to the next level”.

At my end, I felt more in control of my daily schedule instead of feeling “rudderless” and being pulled and tossed here and there based on the latest project or assignment. That control gave me more clarity and vision and enabled me to plan more and do more, but with mindfulness instead of lack of direction. I began to feel less and less like a chicken without a head.

Since then, I have applied the principles of Deep Work more and more and seek to accomplish my hardest and most demanding tasks, ‘eating the frogs’, within my most productive window periods. And the results have never been better, so this is one time-management tool that I will carry with me into the post-COVID-19 work schedule as well.

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