Thinking back to the start of my freshman year of college, I was a much different person. I had a shorter attention span and I used my free time to be lazy. I got caught in a cycle of waking up, going to class, and then going right back to bed. I felt sluggish, unproductive, stuck. This is not who I wanted to be. I was once a passionate kid who was always busy, filling my time with sports, reading and helping my grandmother cook. My lazy days came to a peak the fall of my sophomore year. After struggling to find something to light a fire inside me, I turned to focus on my professional career. I earned two internships for the upcoming semester in Los Angeles, California. During my time there, I was able to fall into a routine. I used my free time to do things I came to love, such as going to museums, attending film screenings, and exploring new cities. I was advancing in my professional life, as well as having passions outside of my job. It is easy to say “I don’t have time”. In order to grow and learn, I had to push myself to get up and get out. I made new friends and found a new mindset. This new mindset is a great first step, but I also have some bad habits I need to kick first. The desire to work hard and focus is there, but it is still so hard to do. I am on the right track, but in order to achieve deep work, I need to push myself to perform better.
What is deep work? In Cal Newport’s book entitled, “Deep Work”, he defines it as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate” (Newport, 3). This type of work is very hard to achieve these days, especially with the likes of social media. I read an article called “I Have Forgotten How to Read” by Micheal Harris and it really resonated with me. I, as a young, excited child, loved reading. My parents would sit with me every night as I memorized pages and pages, wanting to hear the words and over again. In elementary and middle school, I bought multiple books at a time from Barnes and Nobles and would lock myself in my room, barely taking breaks to eat. I bought a singular book the summer before my freshman year of college. As I enter my third collegiate year, I am still on the first chapter. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I never used to have a problem shutting the world out for a while by reading. Harris quotes Nicholas Carr (author of The Shallows), “‘We become more intolerant of moments of time that pass without the arrival of new stimuli’” (Harris, 2018). My time spent scrolling through social media and hours of constant stimulation have hindered my ability to focus in on something such as reading. This bleeds through to my school work as well. Although I think of myself as a good student, being able to sit straight through a study session is almost impossible. I want to break this habit and be able to do what I did as a younger child, turn the world off. I want to be able to type out an entire paper without having to reach for my phone or turn on music. With practice and time, I hope this will come.
I want to set goals for myself. Without holding myself accountable, I will never be able to improve. In order to spark change, I need to first be motivated and dedicated. Deep work will be a challenge because breaking old habits always will be, but it is a change that is necessary. As I graduate, I will be put into the working world. I want to stand out among my peers by being seen as dedicated and focused on my work, rather than another young Gen Zer who is stuck inside their phone. Each month, I want to decrease my screen-time on my phone, until I spend less than three hours per day on it. I believe that by breaking my attachment to my device, I will be able to focus for longer and increase my academic performance. In the article, “Setting Goals Leads to Higher Performance” from CMOE, it talks about how to stick to your goals and achieve them. It talks about the true importance of tracking your progress and adjusting little things along the way to help you improve. I plan to follow these guidelines to help me think clearer and achieve my goal of being able to do deep work.