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Last Updated on October 30, 2018

17 Ways Deep Work Will Help Wipe Out Modern Distractions and Refocus

17 Ways Deep Work Will Help Wipe Out Modern Distractions and Refocus

Deep work as defined by author and professor Cal Newport in his best selling book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World is a concept born out of the difficulty many people have today in handling distractions caused by the boom in digital communications.

These distractions prevent us from focusing on work that matters and contributes towards us feeling overwhelmed and over-worked every day yet at the same time, leaving us feeling we are not doing work that really matters. We are reacting rather than being proactive.

Deep work prevents us from reacting by scheduling time for focused work where we turn off all our notifications and devices for an hour or two and sit down in a quiet place undisturbed to focus on work that matters. It allows us to focus without distraction.

It does work and it is something I have been using for years when I need to get a book finished or I have an important project to complete. Two hours set aside for planned focused work puts me in a position to get my projects completed on time and to a high level of quality.

There are many benefits to deep work. Here are my seventeen favourite ways deep work can help you to become much more productive and effective with your time and your work.

1. Unimportant distractions are gone.

How often have you received a text message saying “did you get my email?” Checking emails is one of the biggest time wastes there is. Just looking at a message like that takes your focus away from what is important.

The refocusing time is estimated to be anywhere between three and twenty-one minutes. Turning off your notifications stops these unnecessary interruptions and allows you to focus on what is important—your work.

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2. Quiet, deep work time allows you to think.

When we allow all these distractions to enter our life, we find there is little to no time for thinking. And yet, thinking is an important ingredient if we want to produce quality work.

Giving yourself time each day for deep work will allow you to think clearly and begin producing better quality work

3. You will begin feeling more fulfilled.

When you start spending more uninterrupted time on the important work, you will find you feel more fulfilled. This is a result of you getting important, fulfilling work done and reducing the amount of time you spend on unimportant, unfulfilling work.

4. You will make fewer mistakes.

When you are constantly distracted from the work at hand, you will make more mistakes. When you allow yourself to stay focused on one task you will make fewer mistakes because you are not having to stop and start a piece of work. You will be more focused.

5. Making fewer mistakes means you need less time to do the work.

And of course, when you are making fewer mistakes you spend less time doing the work and revising. This allows you more time to do more quality work.

6. Deadlines are easily met.

When you schedule deep work on your calendar each day or week, you can confidently plan out when you will do the work that has deadlines.

Knowing you will have periods of uninterrupted time to work on a piece of work will give you the confidence you need to meet the deadline.

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7. You will experience less stress.

When you know you have the time to do the work without any interruptions, you begin feeling less stressed about what you have to do.

A great example is writing this article. I have a deadline and I have scheduled two sessions of deep work to get it written and edited. I feel no stress. I know I will complete it on time.

8. The quality of your work will improve.

The problem with allowing distractions into your work time is that you are not fully focused on the work. By giving yourself total focused time on a piece of work, you will naturally improve the quality of your work.

9. The amount of work you get done increases.

When you are completely focused on the important work, you will find you get a lot more done in each session. Just two hours per day focused on work that really matters will dramatically improve your output.

10. You still have time to deal with the distractions.

One of the fears people have about scheduling deep work is they will miss out on something important. The reality is that is unlikely and even if there was something important, you will still see it after your deep work session.

11. You will receive more respect.

When your boss, colleagues and customers/clients see you schedule time for deep work, they begin to respect you more because they admire your discipline.

Very few people have the necessary discipline to sit down and focus for two hours without looking at their phone, email or notifications. Those of us that can do that are treated with a lot more respect.

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12. People will respect your time more.

Ever noticed the people in your office who do all the chatting are the ones always complaining about how little time they have to do their work? While it may seem those chatterers are popular, the reality is people are not respecting their time.

When you start doing undisturbed deep work, people will begin respecting your time much more.

13. Your self-discipline will improve.

One of the peripheral benefits of practicing regular sessions of deep work is you will find your self-discipline becomes stronger. Self-discipline is the foundation of achieving so many things in life, from your goals to improvements in your health and relationships.

14. Your efficiency will improve.

In today’s world of detractions, it is very hard to be efficient with the work we do. We get dragged down avenues of procrastination because we are always trying to attend to too many things.

Practicing deep work every day allows us to focus on one thing which leads to much greater efficiency.

15. Projects you thought would never get completed begin to get completed.

This one is one of the biggest benefits I have found with deep work. There have been many projects I felt were either too big or too complicated to get completed. After a few sessions of deep work, these projects start getting done and after only a short period of time, they were well on their way to being completed.

16. Your work-life balance improves.

Many of the reasons we find it difficult to maintain a good work-life balance is because much of the work we have to do is done in fits and starts. When this happens, there is often the need to do catch-up work in the evenings or at weekends.

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Deep work prevents this from happening because you work on the important work in a focused state leading to more of your work being completed well within the deadlines.

17. It teaches you to distinguish between important and unimportant work.

Deep work forces you to decide what work is important and what work would have the biggest positive impact on your projects. When you begin practicing deep work regularly, you start to focus more on the high value work and less on the low value work.

Summing it up

The ability to focus is a valuable skill if you want to achieve your goals and become successful. Practising deep work will make you free from distraction and benefit your work, your career and your life. All you need to do is decide when you will do your deep work.

If you want to enter the state of deep work, check out this guide:

How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

More by this author

Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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