Anyone who’s tried to sit down to finish a project knows the tug of war between focus and distraction. Distraction comes in all forms, from organizing the house instead of writing to surfing social media instead of organizing the house. There are many productivity hacks out there to curb distractive cravings, but one of my favorites comes from Cal Newport’s book Deep Work, where he writes about The Grand Gesture.
In 2007, J.K Rowling struggled to finish the last of the Harry Potter books, The Deathly Hallows. In an interview with Oprah, she confessed that it was so difficult to concentrate at home that she checked herself into a suite at a five-star hotel*, down the street from her own home.
“As I was finishing Deathly Hallows there came a day where the window cleaner came, the kids were at home, the dogs were barking. So I came to this hotel because it’s a beautiful hotel, but I didn’t intend to stay here. But the first day’s writing went well so I kept coming back… and I ended up finishing the last of the Harry Potter books.” -J.K Rowling
(*The hotel totally looks like it could be in the same neighborhood as Hogwarts.)
Cal Newport writes of The Grand Gesture:
“By leveraging a radical change to your normal environment, coupled perhaps with a significant investment of effort or money, all dedicated toward supporting a deep work task, you increase the perceived importance of the task. This boost in importance reduces your minds instinct to procrastinate and delivers an injection of motivation and energy.”
Not all of us can move down the street to a $1,000 per-night hotel suit just to focus. But we can find other ways to make Grand Gestures that will stiff arm procrastination and give us an extra hit of motivation. Just driving out of town to a remote coffee shop, or canceling your Netflix subscription until you finish your project might do the trick.
If this resonates with you, know that you’re not alone. The path to creativity is littered with distraction. Use Grand Gestures to up the ante and get work done.
This is The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh where J.K Rowling stayed. Her room is now called, The J.K Rowling Suite and goes for about 1,800 pounds per night.