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…shut down your phone, and spend several hard days trying to make sense of the damn proof.” – Cal Newport

Image Credit: <calnewport.com

Image Credit: <calnewport.com>

For this one we can thank Cal Newport, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University specializing in the theory of distributed algorithms.

…Sharing this one today because I’m beginning to understand that preparation is more than simply outlining and understanding the scope of an undertaking and having the work ethic required to complete it.

See, it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are or how many hours you block off on your calendar to work on XYZ. If you don’t make a conscious effort to stop it from happening, other people and things will disrupt you focus with demands on your time over and over and over again. 

As an HR guy at a manufacturing plant with direct reports, I seldom have several hours of uninterrupted focus to tackle a project. But given the nature of my job (and that of many others in such an environment) this is practically by design. The scope of my role is in many ways defined by putting out fires, and that’s all well and good.

Working at that pace day in and day out, however, it’s easy to fall into the same sort of behaviors during after work hours. And so your time stops becoming your own and instead you end up prioritizing that which is in front of you in the moment as opposed to tackling bigger picture items.

This weekend, I finally had enough. I suddenly realized that there was never going to be a moment where everything “stopped” and I could focus on what I really wanted to get done. At some point in the past 24 months or so, organic uninterrupted time went away for me forever. Going forward if I want to find time to do what’s important to me I need to make time.

…So on Saturday I turned off my phone, closed out my e-mail/social media tabs, hid every clock and timer in the vicinity, and spent almost the entire day 1. This is kind of my thing right now.learning R.

And you know what? The world didn’t stop.

When I turned my phone back on that evening there were people that had needed things from me, but since I wasn’t available they’d either gotten them from someone else or waited. And in turn, I made more progress on my learning and development objectives in a day than I’d made in the preceding two weeks.

So as we get started this week, I’d like to encourage you to prioritize what’s important to you and make time for it. Everyone has an agenda, and there will always be something else demanding your time. So decide what’s important to you and tune everything else out.

You’ll be better for it.

Happy Monday,

Rory