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  • Can I use WrkfloW for other things besides work?
    Yes! Deep work is necessary to learn new skills or become proficient in a particular skill. You can use this while practicing an instrument, or learning a new language, and making art.
  • What if I chose the wrong amount of time for the Countdown Timer?
    If you chose 60 minutes and realize when the timer goes off that you really needed more time and are still focused, you can drag the scrubber bar back and add 30 more minutes. Next time, you’ll be more discerning when you choose your time and you’ll get better at knowing how long a project takes. However, remember that you don’t want to go over 90 minutes even if you’re still in flow, take that rest, and start again after the rest.
  • Why do I have to rest at the end of my WrkfloW session?
    The New York Times wrote about “strategic renewal” which includes workouts and longer vacations, but what we are doing here is technically called non-sleep deep rest. In the 1950s William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back through the cycle. This was coined the Basic-Rest Activity Cycle. It was later discovered that this same 90 minute cycle existed in our waking lives as well. These are ultradian rhythms mentioned above in the FAQ “Why can’t I work for more than 90 minutes?” During the day we move from alertness to fatigue every 90 minutes. If we push through using coffee and sugar, this leads to impatience, bad decision making, irritability, and the increase of cortisol levels. A study by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson showed that elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players performed best when they practiced in uninterrupted 90 minute sessions.
  • What is Deep Work?
    Deep Work, a term coined by Cal Newport* in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, has two key elements: First, it is work that is performed in a state of distraction-free concentration. Second, it is work that is cognitively demanding. If you check email every five minutes, that’s not deep work. If you are not being pushed cognitively, it is not deep work. Deep work runs counter to shallow work, which includes meetings, emails, texts, and all of those things you have to do, but that don't really "move the needle." Deep work creates new value, improves your skills, and creates output that is hard to replicate. Deep work is what differentiates you, and gives your work meaning. And by prioritizing depth in an increasingly shallow world, deep work is what gives you a competitive advantage. *Please note that Wrkflow is not affiliated with Cal Newport or his book Deep Work. His name is mentioned here to provide a citation for the term Deep Work.
  • Where should my phone be during a WrkfloW session?
    It should be put away, out of sight, across the room, or in another room. If you look at your phone every time you have down time, you are out of cognitive shape and can use WrkfloW to build your focus and concentration muscles.
  • What’s the difference between Creative and Technical work?
    Creative work often involves taking a 10,000 foot view of a task or goal. Creative work usually looks at the big picture, the overall mission, and goal. It may be creating a marketing plan, writing copy or a book, creating a product, engaging in a brainstorming session, or synthesizing data. Technical work is more detailed and may be coding, analyzing data, or building a website.
  • What are the Five Dials?
    See The Science Behind for the full explanation. Breath - Learning to manipulate your breath allows for greater control over your physiological, mental, and emotional states. Because of a connection between respiration (the breath), the heart, and the brain, we can change how we think and feel by changing how we breathe. This is an example of what we refer to as embodied neuroscience. Focus - When we focus our eyes for a sustained amount of time (between 30 seconds and 3 minutes) on one point at the center of our field of vision, neurochemicals are released that keep us in a highly focused state. Different neurochemicals are released when we shift into panoramic or "landscape" vision. This lesson teaches how to increase energy and focus or conversely how to feel more calm and relaxed by using your eyes in different ways. Focus also refers to the “spotlight of our attention”. It’s important to know the difference between sensation and perception, and the difference between interoception and exteroception. Knowing these subtle ways to move our attention around are the building blocks to using the spotlight of your attention to feel less scattered, anxious, and stressed. Movement - When we increase our movement, our heart rate increases, increasing our energy levels. If we bring our heart rate up and keep it up for at least a few minutes, we release endorphins and adrenaline which brings us pleasurable feelings and boosts our mood. Certain movements can also lower your heart rate and help you feel calmer. Self-Talk - Feel more in control of your mindset and "code over" old ways of thinking. Update your operating system to have a different view of yourself and the world around you. Understand how your mindset has been crafted by family, friends, and broader culture. Understand how your mindset affects others. Understand the impact of thoughts and words on your mindset. Non-Sleep Deep Rest - Non-sleep deep rest is when we close our eyes, rest our bodies by reclining or resting our head on the desk, and removing as much noise possible. If you are not in a quiet location you can play nature sounds, or a singing bowls track. This kind of rest is a neurobiological imperative if we are to optimize brain function and performance. It also puts a deposit into our body budget.
  • What time of day should I do my WrkfloW sessions? How can I maximize my ultradian rhythms?
    You get a peak of energy early in the day, around 9:30 AM. Getting sunlight in your eyes (outside) shortly after waking will increase that energy. A good way to figure out your particular ultradian cycle schedule is to observe how you feel for a couple of mornings. Notice what time you feel the most energized and focused in the morning. It will probably be around 9:30/10:00 AM. In the mid to late afternoon, you’ll have another peak of energy and focus. Observe how you feel for a couple days and notice. You can do up to four 90 min WrkfloW sessions aday that ideally you would time around these peaks. If you want to wake up early and get your peak started early, we recommend getting up at 5:30, get some sunlight if you can, some brief high intensity exercise, and then the cortisol release will happen earlier. If you do that regularly, your ultradian rhythms will naturally shift earlier. In this case, you would want to start going to bed earlier as well. Neuroplasticity is going to be best triggered within a 60 minute portion of your 90 minute session.
  • What is the importance of ritual in deep work?
    Ritual helps make a particular behavior a habit. Rituals also help minimize friction that could prohibit you sinking into your deep work. WrkfloW was created to be a large part of your ritual. The brain prep, the timer, and ending with non-sleep deep rest are all rituals that don’t just serve as ritual, but as neurological boosters.
  • What if I finish my WrkfloW session early?
    If you finish your prescribed and intended work for your session before the timer goes off, you can either click on the chapter marker for non-sleep deep rest and take your rest, or take on another short task that you’ve been putting off. The countdown timer itself often has a race effect. You will feel super focused to finish the task before the timer goes off. You will notice you work more efficiently with that increased focus so it’s good to take advantage of that.
  • Can students use WrkfloW?
    Yes! Students as young as 11 can use WrkfloW for practicing an instrument, learning a new skill, or doing tough homework.
  • What is WrkfloW?
    WrfkloW uses the neuroscience of brain optimization to help you unlock the benefits of deep work (see next FAQ for more on Deep Work). Workflow has three parts: 1) Guided Brain Prep, 2) Countdown Timer for your deep work, and 3) Guided Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR). Brain Prep is a 2-3 minute guided video practice that gets you prepared to do deep work. It is customized for you based on the type of deep work you will be doing, and how you currently feel (i.e., tired, worried, distracted, etc). Based on the 5-Dials (see The Science Behind for a full explanation), Brain Prep guides you through manipulating your breath, focus, movement, and/or self-talk to get the right mix of neurochemicals flowing to best support your deep work. Following Brain Prep, a Countdown Timer begins. This is when you transition to your deep work–brainstorming a new idea, writing new code, designing new technology, fleshing out a novel idea, writing a chapter in your book, etc. The Countdown Timer is available in 30-, 60-, and 90-minute blocks of time and ends with a gentle alert (the sound of a crystal singing bowl). This lets you know that it is time to wrap-up your deep work for this session and transition back to your WrkfloW video for your guided Non-Sleep Deep Rest. Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) guides your brain and body through 5 minutes of deep rest. Rest is not a nice to have, it is a neurobiological imperative. It puts a deposit into your body budget and helps you stave off the negative effects of unmitigated stress while promoting positive neuroplasticity. Each time you engage in NSDR you are healing important circuitry in your brain–setting yourself up to operate in the world with more ease and proficiency. In short, WrkfloW is the operational ritual for deep work. It helps you take the steps necessary to do intentional, focused, uninterrupted, and novel work. The Brain Prep practice feels like a fun ritual and knowing it is getting your neurochemicals primed is rewarding in and of itself. The Countdown Timer gives you a sense of urgency that further enhances your focus. The NSDR is like a gift or a treat at the end. You will find it deeply pleasurable and it will inspire you to come back to WrfkloW time and again to continue enhancing not only your deep work, but your life and wellbeing.
  • What if I have a really hard time not getting distracted?
    You can start by turning off all your alerts and even put your phone in airplane mode, across the room, or even in another room. Adding ritual makes it easier to slip into deep work. (see below) If you’re still having trouble, you can visit our Brain Training section and do some video practices. You will be guided through longer practice sessions that will be like going to the gym for your brain. If you are out of cognitive shape (look at your phone every time you have down time, don’t read books, don’t think deeply while taking walks, don’t do strategy games or board games) you’ll have to do some training or else true deep work will be extremely difficult. Deep work is focused, uninterrupted and pushes you beyond your level of competence, to the edges of your cognition. In the beginning, doing a WrkfloW session and keeping your attention on one thing may feel like it pushes you to the edge of your cognitive abilities no matter what the type of work happens to be. That’s ok. Just continuing to do WrkfloW sessions will help you build your focus muscle so that you can start to increase the difficulty of your work and tackle increasingly challenging goals.
  • Why can’t I work for more than 90 minutes?
    Research shows that focused concentration is difficult to maintain for longer than 90 minutes. This is because our bodies follow ultradian rhythms, periods or cycles of alertness that last about 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, your body sends you signals that you need a break (loss of focus, feeling fidgety, hunger, drowsiness). Most of the time we ignore these signals and push through. But, this leads to an accumulation of stress and a breakdown in focus and creativity in the long-run. WrkfloW is here to help you use the neuroscience of brain optimization to get the most out of your deep work. Therefore, each deep work session is no more than 90 minutes. After you finish a WrkfloW, you can always rinse and repeat! Cal Newport, in his book Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World, suggests it is possible to do up to four hours of deep work a day.
  • How will WrkfloW improve my life?
    WrkfloW creates the ritual and framework to achieve deep work. More deep work in your life will help you with the following: You will get more done with less friction. Rather than forcing productivity, by following your natural ultradian rhythms, work will feel like it flows. You will get into a flow state more easily because you won’t be swimming upstream. Your work will be more inspired and creative. You will feel like you have more focus and energy. Fatigue won’t feel like a regular block on your day. You’ll be giving yourself little bits of rest and following your ultradian rhythms, so you’ll never feel like you’re fighting exhaustion. You’ll also have a better chance at becoming an expert. Researchers have found that there isn’t a correlation between IQ and expertise. However, there is a connection between the amount and quality of practice and level of expertise. This is true across all fields. The robust research looked at surgery, acting, chess, writing, computer programming, ballet, music, aviation, firefighting, and many other areas of expertise. A key factor is deliberate, intentional practice. This is deep work. Deep work is focused, uninterrupted and pushes you beyond your level of competence, to the edges of your cognition.
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