Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Producing At Your Peak

Locked away inside a cabin in the woods, Neil stares out the window at the trees. Fun at first, a bore now. 

He pushes himself out of his chair with a sigh and shuffles to his desk. His empty notebook greets him. 

But Neil no longer fears the blank page. He’s excited by it.

Boredom has worked its magic.

Without anything to entertain our friend, he grabs his pen and continues his story. Writing has never been more fun.

I’m of course talking about best selling author, Neil Gaiman, who does most of his work cut off from distractions.

No computer, no phone, no to watching the third season of Stranger Things!

But Neil isn’t the only one who understands the benefits of solitude.

Many influential figures have walked the path of the hermit.

Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell worked almost entirely alone.

Bill Murray doesn’t have an agent. If you want to get in touch with the legendary actor, you must first find his mythical 1-800 number which doesn’t even have Bill’s voice on the recording.

The American poet and Pulitzer Prize winner, Elizabeth Bishop was also a big supporter of solitude.

People who take advantage of silence often have impressively long, creative bodies of work.

And for good reason.

Because if you organise your life in a way where you have long, uninterrupted moments of time—you can create truly meaningful work.

Depending on the medium you choose, your work can then enrich the lives of thousands of people.

Whereas if you allow yourself to get interrupted by phone calls and emails, you may only help a few dozen people. And have nothing to show for it.

Giving your full attention to a single task doesn’t automatically lead to a more impressive oeuvre. Focus leads to getting your work done faster.

Adoy! Right?

But what’s maybe not so commonly known, is that switching from one task to the other sabotages your attention.

Why?

Because as you change projects, a sliver of attention sticks to your previous task. Which means you’re losing out on brainpower.

Sticking to a single task allows you to maximize your performance.

Easier said than done.

Because even the pling of a new text message is enough to steal focus from your main project.

So how do you create an environment in which you can work at your peak for hours at a time?

Firstly, schedule time for yourself and consider it sacred. Lock yourself up inside your office. Not possible? Consider coming in early, or staying late.

Next, be a bad pen pal. Tell your co-workers and boss that you’re not available for questions and new tasks until after lunch.

The idea of going off grid for a few hours may twist your insides. But that feeling is probably unfounded. 

Leaving your co-workers high and dry rarely causes any problems. Usually it leads to your colleagues becoming more self reliant.

If the idea of being disconnected gives you the sweats, consider creating different emails for different types of enquiries. 

Because if you have one email for everything and you see it filling up, that’s going to stress you out. Every email is potentially urgent. But we know from experience that most emails we get are low priority.

Lastly, create rituals to cement your new work habit. Because if your mind understands you’re doing meaningful work, you’re less likely to be distracted.

Consider the following practices.

Do your focused work in a different location. Work in the usual place, but usher in your session by going for a 10 minute walk. Change your workspace by turning off all the lights, except for a small desk lamp. Set the tone for concentration by playing whale sounds.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach