What are one thing very successful people have in common? They all have the ability to follow these 3 principles which make them highly successful and effective.
First and foremost, let me define success. Success requires financial success, performance success, and other life success (i.e. being a good family man, being a good spouse, contributing back to the community, being happy, etc.). To be considered successful they must have success in these 3 areas.
The 3 traits all successful people have in common:
- Deep work
- Working intensely
Deep work defines how you approach doing your work. Working intensely defines the intensity and magnitude the work is done. Resting defines the time spent outside of work.
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, defines “deep work [as] the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.”
The equation, High-quality work produced = (time spent) x (intensity of focus), shows how valuable deep work is. You’ll delve into working intensely later but for right now, its the intensity of focus and the time that are so important to us.
If you want to be a master at anything, you have to be able to work proficiently and productively, maximizing your time. How else could you gain a competitive advantage? In a world where everyone is working all the time, it’s your ability to make the most of that time that will set you apart and make you more successful.
After reviewing series of studies, the American Psychological Association, reports that when you are multi-tasking you think that you’re getting more done, when in reality, you’re only getting about half as much done. You can read more about that on their research page. Basically, the more things you do at once, the more your attention gets divided. When you’re attention is divided you’re losing time from task switching, doing a lower quality of work, and keeping yourself our of your most productive state.
Imagine having a long day at work and coming home to a spouse. You sit down, and they sit with you. They ask you how your day was. As you proceed to tell them how awful or incredible your day was they pick up their phone and start scrolling through Instagram. They look up every now and then, and tell you they’re listening. How convinced are you? How much better does it feel if your spouse doesn’t even look for their phone, but they’re genuinely engrossed in the conversation?
This is an abstract, but applicable example. Deep work applies in this situation as well as in a work environment. No matter what you do for the day, plan your day, and devote your full self to whatever it is you’re doing. Cooking dinner, working out, having family time, devote your sole attention to whatever task is at hand. I know this isn’t always possible, but make time for it with your most important things. Focus on getting 1 task done, and don’t move forward, or get distracted until that is done.
So what do you need to do?
- Plan our your day. Decide the primary things you’ll focus on for the blocks of the day
- Devote your whole self to whatever task is at hand
- Turn on “Do Not Disturb” on your computer
- Put your phone away, don’t even put it near your, whether you’re working or listening to a friend. If you can’t put it away, but it on “Do Not Disturb”
Stress + Rest = Growth.
Growth happens when we balance stress and recovery. Cycling between intense exercise and rest leads to muscular and cardiovascular growth. Cycling between intense focus and rest leads to creativity, productivity, innovation and problem solving. In Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, it’s shown that “the brightest minds spend their time either pursuing an activity with ferocious intensity or engaging in complete restoration and recovery.”
When we stress our minds we actually have an increase in the amount of grey matter in the brain. Why is this important? Grey matter (of the hippocampus) is best associated with learning skills and memory abilities, but is also connected to self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
Just like our bodies we have to push our minds to the edge to get a stimulus that will force it to grow. Instead of growing in size like the muscles do, it grows in grey matter. With increased grey matter you learn faster, memorize better, increase self-awareness, and become more compassionate.
Just as it is important to be physical and grow in fitness, it is important to push the limits of your brain to grow. Working intensely allows you to do this. Help your body ward off cognitive decline, and become even sharper.
- Work deeply can so you can work intensely
- Eat well and workout
- Imagine and be in awe
- Challenge your mental limits