Skip to content

The String #5: Finding Rhythm For Deep Focus

Jonas Achouri Sihlén
Jonas Achouri Sihlén
3 min read
The String #5: Finding Rhythm For Deep Focus

To start with, this week has been a rough one. To truly find my rhythm of writing has been something I really needed to aggressively plan and dedicate time for. This is probably pretty normal for anyone trying to create space and time for their passion.

The struggle I faced got me curious about exploring our ability to focus and the connection to rhythm. That is why this weeks string of insight is covering only one main topic. A conscious choice I made on something that is not only close to my heart but is also an obsession since I was a kid:

RHYTHM.

I have started to listen to Dr. Andrew Huberman's podcast which is packed with information and learnings on neuroscience where I happened to capture some references to circadian and ultradian rhythm. Two main concepts crucial for keep your deep focus. We will revisit these concepts in future editions as well.

Hey, didn't we forget something?

Yeah that's right the playlist! Let's press play 👇🏽 and lean into the Sunday String-mood. 🎶 🎧

Open Spotify Playlist

From Passive To Active Learning

Up until around the age of 25 our brains are plasticity machines. Meaning we can learn almost anything through passive experience.

As an example, my youngest daughter turns 2 years in a month and the other day she surprised both me and my wife. She saw a scene from a cartoon and said the Swedish word for "thunder" (åska) and turned to us as if she was afraid. We both got excited since neither me or my wife has deliberately taught her that word.
On top of this she has the habit, every night we go to sleep, pointing at my nose and eyes saying; "nariz" and "ojo". Her mother speaks Spanish at home.

When we are young we pick up stuff along the way, such as learning new languages, without spending any active focus or attention to it. Research shows that it is because our nervous system is still "open for wiring".

Throughout the years our abilities to learn new stuff requires more attention. When we approach mid-20's we require active attention and focus to learn new things. As if that was not enough we need to deliberately set up new processes for focus and practice.

This means that the "fire together, wire together" notion doesn't really apply to all of us. Especially for people who are 25 years and older. We need to deliberately setup a rhythm and framework of deliberate focus. The main concept includes:

  • Removal of shallow work and distractions
  • Dedicated time on a regular basis
  • Monotasking (one task at the time)
  • Split the days in chunks

This 1-page summary of the book Deep Work captures important rules and practices to keep this rhythm in motion.

Finding Your Rhythm

I remember when I used to fall asleep as a kid with headphones tightly attached to my ears. Sometimes I woke up with sore ears and hearing Dean Martin singing: "Going back; to Houston, Houston, Houston". Yupp I had quite an interesting taste as a teenager 🤷🏽‍♂️

In Hubermanlab episode 2, Andrew Huberman explains how important our sleep is for our daily focus. We have all heard the importance of circadian rhythm but what I learned the past week is that there is a shorter frequenzy of biological rhythm that express itself throughout a day. It is called ultradian rhythm and based on those we can design approx 90 minute chunks of work where we neurologically can dedicate to learning/creating new things.

By being effective long-term we should in between these 90 minute sessions do something completely different, such as exercise, play an instrument, eating food etc. Lex Fridman has shared his "day in the life" that I can recommend as inspiration on how to structure your day (if you don't have kids).

The main take away here is that we all can learn how to structure our days in shorter time spans and combine those with leisure time for long-term productivity. Some people are morning persons and are most productive and creative early in the day, others like to stay up and work late.
Therefore I will not create detailed guides on how such a schedule can look like. We are all our own designers for creative work.

Ok, this edition became pretty long, I hope you found this edition valuable.

Do let me know by replying to this email if you have any reflections on the topic or the format or anything that you find could help boosting future editions of this newsletter.

P.S You can also find my deep dive article related to this topic, published last year. You can find it here on this blog. D.S

Until next week and take care ❤️