Focus for 2019

2017 was spent disassembling the life that I had worked for four years to build. 2018 was adventure and figuring out what was next. Now settled into that next phase, I’m excited for 2019 to be about working again on building habits, especially around deep work and dedicating time to creativity.

Deep work is the concept of foregoing distractions to single-task on one task for a long period of time. In my work in communications, I find it very easy to stay in the shallows, monitoring chat conversations and social media. I want to be attentive and quickly helpful, but the cost is not getting the long stretches of time that I need to get meaningful and satisfying work done. So for 2019 my focus is going to be consciously shifting towards deep work. I am planning on doing this in several strategies:

1.) Starting the day with a 25-minute deep work session. This is nothing compared to the 4-hour deep work session that Cal Newport recommends, but for me 25 minutes of single-tasking is enough to disengage my brain from the distracted shallow “checking” state to getting real work done.

2.) Attending “Shut Up and Write” meetups to help me focus on work writing. The meetups are structured in two forty-five minute sessions where a group of people are all foregoing distractions to make progress on their writing. There is something about the atmosphere of collective concentration that makes those sessions tremendously productive for me.

3.) Journaling every day in order to clear the clutter of the mind.

4.) Meditating every day in order to train my concentration. Meditation is a habit that I’ve long tried to pick up but could never stick with. Lately I’ve been having more success with it because I’ve decided that, no matter what, I have 10-30 minutes before bed to practice.

Deep work is a habit I want to cultivate because I think it is in many ways the secret to career success and personal satisfaction. If you’re able to work deeply on something, you’ll get in the mental effort to make progress on it. This will help you do better at your job be more satisfied with your efforts. The days I am most unhappy are the days I spend with my attention scattered about, never staying with any task for very long.

In 2019 I am also going to focus on dedicating time to creativity. When I start wondering what will make me happy, I think back to my childhood for clues. And when I was young I was happiest writing or drawing.

Over the years I stopped idolizing creativity because I felt that creativity, especially artistic creativity, wasn’t a path to either financial success or helping others. But now I wonder if I might have overlooked the importance of creativity in my sense of fulfillment. And so I’ve decided to reprioritize artistic creativity and give myself the time to explore that realm once again. My strategies for doing this:

1.) Daily journaling to through creative blocks and reflect on what’s important to me. The writing also quickly turns into blogs (like this one), and I feel satisfied in having my personal thought processes structured enough that I feel okay with publicly sharing them.

2.) Once again, the “Shut Up and Write” meetups serve as a time for me to focus on creative expression through writing.

3.) In order to obligate myself to get time in to work on non-writing creativity, I created a “Shut Up and Create” Meetup group. I now have to show up to host the meetup and work on an animation, illustration, or some other creative endeavor. For better or worse my actions are often shaped by the expectations of others, and so I hope to hack this to my advantage by meeting people who will expect me to be creative.

I look forward to testing my hypothesis that focusing on deep work and creativity will help me feel more satisfied and fulfilled this year.