If you look at the first few hours of my day, there are no meetings scheduled. On my calendar, there’s a 2-hour block that’s marked as writing and creation time. It’s a period in which I make sure there are absolutely no interruptions:
- No meetings or phone calls
- No mindless web browsing
- No checking email
- No responding to texts
If you’re going to do deep work and leverage the power of one focused hour a day, that time has to be completely uninterrupted. To truly understand the power of this, it helps to understand its opposite.
Perpetually interrupted Unfocused Creation Time
Phones buzz with notifications from apps, text messages from friends. Multiple tabs are open on a web browser. And people switch from one task to another spending no more than a minute or two on each one. This is the antithesis of deep work. Working like this is a bit like taking one step forward and one step back while wondering why you’re not actually making any progress. It’s insidious because it feels productive even it though it’s not
Now, let’s take a look at the exact opposite of this.
Uninterrupted Creation Time
A few days ago I interviewed Steven Kotler for an upcoming episode of the Unmistakable Creative. Given the work he’s done with books like The Rise of Superman, and The Flow Genome Project, he knows a thing or two about tapping into flow states. Not surprisingly, two essential ingredients for flow, focus, and attention.
Steven wakes up at 4am and writes until 8am. He plays the same music track on repeat, and his environment is setup such that there are absolutely no interruptions or distractions. And he uses a distraction free writing tool so that the only thing he can do is write. Distraction-free writing tools are probably one of the greatest productivity enhancers you can use. I even write my emails in a distraction-free writing software called Macjournal. This makes it difficult for your attention to keep shifting from one thing to another.
My business partner Brian does the same thing as a salesperson. For the first several hours of the day, he doesn’t respond to texts, emails or slack messages. He’s focused on one thing, selling.
The goal is to completely tune out the world around you, to lose yourself in the work and in the moment. Turn off your phone, put on some headphones, and eliminate every potential source of distraction. At first, this will be painful. You’ll struggle to stay focused and be tempted to do something else. But if you stick with it your attention muscle will build. The longer your uninterrupted creation time is, the more intense a state of flow you’ll find yourself in.
When you get stuck, your natural temptation will be to seek out some source of distraction. Getting stuck actually creates space and time for you to think. If you give into some source of distraction you’ll drown out the sound of your own voice. Some of my greatest breakthroughs have happened when I’ve been completely stuck.
Just think of getting stuck as a moment when the gears in your head are doing their work. If you can be patient enough to persist through those moments when you feel stuck, you’ll experience big breakthroughs. Tell yourself “I’m not stuck. I’m just thinking.” When you don’t embrace being stuck, uninterrupted creation time turns into interrupted creation time and multi-tasking.
Uninterrupted creation time can help you accomplish seemingly impossible things like writing 3 books in 3 years or finishing a 45,000-word manuscript in 6 months. Set aside a few hours a week for uninterrupted creation time, and you’ll be happy you did at the end of the year.
I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Every Sunday we share the most unmistakable parts of the internet that we have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. Receive our next issue by signing up here.