Genius work or mediocre work?
It starts, according to philosopher Brian Johnson, with asking: Who am I at my absolute best?
What’s the gap between what I’m capable of being and what I am actually doing?
Then, we close that gap. When? Now. In this moment.
This week we are looking at Brian’s concept of masterpiece days. To create masterpiece days, we focus on what Brian calls “the Big 3”: our energy, our work, and our love. Yesterday, we looked at how to increase our energy. Today, we turn our attention to our work.
The quality of our work is a product of two factors: Time and Intensity. And, Brian tells us: Intensity is a factor of Energy x Focus x What’s Important Now (W.I.N.).
We aim to match our highest level of energy to our most important work. Which is why Brian suggests we start our day by creating time blocks and do deep work early in the day when we are freshest. We do our creative, deep work before switching to the reactive work of checking email and other messaging.
Brian suggests we create a “tech free zone” at least an hour before bed. Then, we continue in this mode through our AM routine and the first part of our morning so we can focus on what Professor Cal Newport calls deep work.
These are not sacrifices, Brian emphasizes. These are decisions we make so we can do our very best work.
Next we focus. We reduce or eliminate distractions. Multi-tasking is a myth. Our brains are wired to do one higher level activity at a time. Every time we switch between activities requires us to switch our attention. Which is why when we are immersed in a project and we are interrupted by a call, afterwards it takes precious time to get back into the flow of the prior project. These switching costs dramatically reduce our productivity.
Our phones and email are often major sources of distraction. All that buzzing and beeping and the constant notifications rob our attention and take us out of flow. When we reply to someone else’s message instead of doing our deep work, we’ve turned our agenda over to someone else.
Of course, we need to respond to messages. But, if this is our default mode all-day, everyday, we likely are neglecting our most important work. Cal Newport encourages us to “flip the paradigm:” instead of being connected 24/7 and blocking out time to do deep work, we block out time to allow digital inputs in.
Then, we focus like a laser on what’s important now (W.I.N.). To practice W.I.N. management we get clear on our wildly important goals. We do first things first.
And second things not at all.
Do we try to to drink the entire ocean? No. We create micro wins.
The final part of the equation is consistency which acts as an exponential. Consistency is our secret sauce.
Intensity = Energy x Focus x What’s Important Now (WIN) raised to the power of consistency.
We end our work day at a specific time. Doing so increases our ability to focus because we know our time is bounded. At the appointed hour, we say “shut down complete” and fully transition into our next area of focus: Love.
Reflection: What are some of the specific benefits of being more intentional about how we approach our work day?
Action: Experiment with one of the ideas above.