Everybody
is talking about Design Thinking and how other business units can learn from
designers to tackle their tasks and problems. Well, I am ‘another business
unit’ and I have been working with designers for years, either with clients or
with colleagues. And what fascinates me again and again is not their way of approaching
projects (resumably I have internalized that long ago) but something completely
different. Something I always strive for without success. In which I may also
get better and better in phases. But never get perfect. Something I envy every
designer for: concentration. Quiet. The focus on one single activity. And
therefore best results.

I have been
working as an external PR Consultant for Indeed for more than 7 years now.
Thus, for more than 7 years I have been walking in and out of their offices.
Community has always been important with Indeed, so they have always worked in
open spaces. How do they all make it to stay focused, despite every distraction
by colleagues, smartphones, telephone calls and visitors? And why does it only
need something like a bird in front of my window to lose my concentration? Not
to mention calls, emails and parcel delivery at all… The phone rings, an
email pops up, the smartphone reports new messages. A customer comes along with
an urgent request, a journalist calls back, a message reminds me of the due
social media post. I have to act immediately, haven’t I?

Deep work
is still not too popular despite the current mindfulness trend. But it should –
because it is not only the guarantee for more output and better results, but
also for more satisfaction and a better health. A few years ago Cal Newport has
written a bestseller about this issue, and he cites the ‘network tools’
(emails, text messages, social media, smartphones, infotainment websites etc)
as the main reasons our attention nowadays only exists bit by bit. Am I
possibly innocent of my dilemma? After all, the above mentioned appliances
belong to my job like the scissors belong to the barber.

Either way,
I am not willing to accept that! Because I firmly believe that the lack of
ability to delve into something is really harmful. In particular as it gets
lost more and more, the longer we approach things only superficially. The power
of concentration, once lost, cannot necessarily be restored; the brain unlearns
it!

Cal Newport
mentions his own deep work strategies in his book, but I am interested in what
the designers have to say about it.
Here are the insightful answers:

Focus on
interim results

Design is
not a single overnight action. It takes many iterative steps to create
something new. The process can be a long-lasting one and it involves many
different activities. With this awareness, the designer focusses on the next
interim result, this is internalized over years.

The
progress lies in your own hands and it often happens within short sprints. This
allows for concentrated work better than lengthy activities which require
persistance. Project stages and the concrete goal are limiting the required
time as well. Working out an idea for example means to stop again after the
first impulses. Then new thoughts and input are needed and for that our brains
needs a break.

Deep work
in manageable stages.

Use
equipment and change scene

The fact
that a tool (pen, saw etc) is usually needed for the designers’ work is
helpful. Hence he has to focus not only on himself and his interim goal but
also on the correct application of the equipment. This interaction makes it
easier to focus and the resulting little steps in the process allow for more
frequent breaks and less exhaustion.

Depending
on the work step, you ‚lock yourself in’ with all the tools you need right now.
Indeed has taken this into account in their new office space: a telephone
booth, a lounge, meeting points, presentation areas and a garage, you will find
the right environment for each activity. 

Deep Work Locations (by the way also
for the power-nap).

Create
structures self-confidently

Deep work
requires self-awareness, mental clarity and self-confidence. Only then you can
meet the following rules that are highly effective for any concentrated work:

  1. ‍Ignore incoming messages in the concentration phase. Unneeded devices remain in the bag, push messages are switched off. Only you decide when to read emails, not the sender.
  2. Make decisions to get things going. There will be enough time to refine results later.
  3. Trust your own expertise and implement what you consider as correct. You do not need evaluation for every single step.
  4. Schedule your day and don’t get dissuaded by others. You focus on one topic, everything else has to wait.

Deep work
with a healthy and self-assured attitude.

Enjoy your
favorite music loud

Lucky
designers – they work on tasks which allow to get inspired by music. Creative
activities flow if your favorite music uplifts your mood (unfortunately, it
does not work when it comes to calculations or textual work). It is
well-explored that music has a significant impact on our mood. Thus the many
headphones in the Indeed-office do their job.

Deep work
through happiness (as well as through pop, rock, R & B and dub).

Love what
you do

‚Happiness’
is a buzz-word driving to a statement that occurred in every answer I received:
The more interesting the task, the deeper the concentration on it. The more
someone is convinced of the project and the freer he is allowed to act, the
better his deep work. Love for the job leads to best results and success leads
to satisfaction, which in turn leads to a calm brain that can focus easily.

Deep work
out of joy.

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