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Last Updated on March 19, 2020

How to Use Deep Work to Wipe out Distractions And Boost Productivity

How to Use Deep Work to Wipe out Distractions And Boost Productivity

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.

How Deep Work Helps You Refocus

There are many benefits to deep work. Here are my 17 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.

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. Begin to feel 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.

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4. 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. 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.

7. 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. 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. 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.

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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.

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.

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. Know how 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.

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6 Steps to Use Deep Work to Ignite Productivity

1. Use time blocks on your calendar

The first step to taking advantage of deep work is to block time out on your calendar. To do this, review your calendar for the next day and identify where you will have one or two hours free for focused work.

Ideally, one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon is what you are looking for but, be flexible. If you have a relatively free morning and back to back meetings in the afternoon, then block time only in the morning.

2. Start small

If you have never blocked time out for focused work before, then start small.

Begin with thirty minutes and gradually increase your time. It should not be difficult to find 30 minutes a day to sit down in a quiet place and get on with your work.

Once you are comfortable with 30 minutes, increase the time to 1 hour. It is surprising how much you can get done in 1 hour and so, make it a goal to get to a daily deep work session of 1 hour as quickly as you can. Just this 1 hour every day will massively increase your productivity.

3. Decide what you will work on the day before

This step is crucial. If you do not plan what you will work on before you sit down to do deep work, you will waste valuable time looking for something to do. Plan ahead.

I recommend you take 10 minutes before you finish for the day and make a decision on what you will work on during your focused work time.

An additional benefit in doing this is you give your subconscious brain time to develop some creative ideas for the project you are going to work on.

4. Find a quiet place to do your work

If you stay in your normal work station and try and do your focused work, you are going to be interrupted by someone or something.

Try to find a quiet place to do your work. In an office, find a meeting room where you can work undisturbed. Alternatively, if you are permitted to do so, do your deep work sessions in a local coffee shop or at home.

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What you are looking for is a regular place you can do your deep work that will allow you to go into focused work mode quickly. Using the same place will put you in the right frame of mind as soon as you sit down and start.

5. Find your best time

Some people are naturally morning people, others are naturally night people. To really get the benefit of deep work, schedule your deep work sessions when you are at your best.

For me, that is early in the morning. I do all my focussed work between 6 am and 8 am where possible. I’ve found that between 6 am and 8 am, I am also less likely to be disturbed and they are not likely to be any meetings at that time.

6. Be consistent

To get the full benefit of deep work sessions, you need to be consistent.

Consistency develops habits. Once you are in the habit of reviewing your calendar the day before and blocking out a couple of sessions each day where you go into deep work mode and doing it, it becomes something you just do.

Consistently spending time in deep work mode will very quickly give you a return of increased productivity and less stress.

6. No excuses!

Never allow yourself to make an excuse for not doing your scheduled deep work session.

Of course, there will be times when a crisis occurs and you have to re-schedule. But, never allow yourself to make excuses like: “I’m too tired” or “I’m not in the mood.”

Once you allow yourself to make an excuse for not doing your deep work session, you will eventually stop doing it.

Be strict with yourself and be strategic with scheduling your deep work sessions. If you know you are going to have a night out with your friends that could finish late, then do not schedule a deep work session for early the next day. If there is a risk an afternoon meeting will overrun, then do not schedule a deep work session after the meeting.

The Bottom Line

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.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Carl Pullein

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

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

6 Ways to Make Progress Every Day (And Realize Your Goals)

6 Ways to Make Progress Every Day (And Realize Your Goals)

Are you at a critical stage in your life, and it seems you are not making headway with your life goals? Does it feel like you are complacent, and you are struggling to accomplish what you set out to do? You can make progress by establishing and diligently working towards those goals that align with your life’s mission.

A lot of dreams are not terminated because the dreamers gave up; they died due to a long period of inactivity. This is the more reason you need to develop a progress mindset while you pursue those relevant and meaningful goals.

A progress mindset will enable you to work on any inadequacy that can truncate the realization of your goals. With such a mindset, you are constantly evaluating yourself, improving your skills, and seeking ways to learn and grow through life.

Why Is It Essential to Develop a Progress Mindset?

Your mindset encompasses your beliefs—how you perceive your talents, skills, knowledge, and personality. Your belief system eventually influences your viewpoints about goals and success. A fixed mindset can hinder your progress, while a progressive mindset will enable you to achieve sound health, happiness, good relationships, and peace.

6 Ways to Make Progress and Realize Your Goals

Here are 6 practical ways that you can make progress and realize all your goals.

1. Figure Out Your WHYs

Nothing is static. You are either making progress or retrogressing. You need to establish why you want to move forward.

  • Career: Why do I want to be fulfilled in my career?
  • Marriage: Why do I want a happy home and loving children?
  • Health: Why do I want to be physically and mentally sound?
  • Finance: Why do I want to be out of debt?
  • Academics: Why do I want to ace my grades?
  • Relationship: Why do I want to communicate better?
  • Personal: Why do I want to be a better person?

For every aspect of your life, establish the reasons for changing levels.

Someone once said,

“When your why is strong and convincing, the how will emerge.”

Establishing your reasons will help you to be an active player in decisions that affect your life. You will also be able to establish if your motivation to progress is intrinsic or extrinsic as you make progress.

2. Establish Tangible Goals

Once you have established your reasons, the next step is to establish your life goals. Develop your aims for short-term, mid-term, as well as long-term goals. This process will enable you to track your progress and implement changes that improve your progress.

Keep Your Goals SMART

Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound in order to make progress. For instance, I want to improve my typing speed by 150 wpm within the next three months. I will spend two hours daily practicing on Mavis Beacon. I wrote in detail on how to set SMART goals that you will accomplish.

You can learn how to write SMART goals in the video below:

Write Your Goals on Paper

Sticking your goals on your wall or notepad will offer you a visual cue that can reinforce why, how, and when you want to make progress on your goals.

Update Your Goals as Required

Review your goals at intervals to ensure you can still achieve them.

3. Create Your Game Plan

It is not enough to know what you want from life; you need to design a roadmap to get to your destination.

Here’s what you can do:

Break Your SMART Goals Into Habits

Begin by highlighting the good habits you need to cultivate and the bad habits you need to eliminate. Here’s how to break bad habits that can truncate your progress.

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Master One Habit at a Time

Once you figure out the good habits to have in your life, then ensure you practice them daily. Scientists revealed that you would need 18 to 254 days to develop new habits and that a new habit will only become permanent after 66 days of practicing it.[1]

Once you have gained mastery over a habit, add more routines that will enable you to make progress in the direction of your goals.

4. Imbibe Positivity

A positive outlook means you are always optimistic about yourself, interactions, and events. It also determines your ability to expect favorable outcomes when working towards your life goals.

Positivity is a mental posture that sees accomplishments and opportunities instead of failures and defeat. It will keep you hopeful when you are facing daunting challenges.

A study on positive thinking revealed that visualizing positive images can reduce worry and anxiety.[2]

How do you maintain a positive outlook on life?

  • Look out for the best in every circumstance to be more progress-minded.
  • Use positive affirmations. For instance, when you wake up, say, “I will work hard to complete all my milestones today.”
  • Associate with positive people that will support your progress. You need positive energy to consistently make progress in the direction of your goals.
  • Change your perspectives about failures and setbacks, and see them as significant components of making progress.

5. Practice Reflection as You Progress

A lot of things will occur once you are determined to advance. You will learn new lessons and implement changes. You will form new habits and eliminate bad ones.

It is reasonable to take time out and evaluate what worked and what did not. Ask yourself how you can improve and surmount new obstacles. You can log your answers in a diary or use a virtual journal to track your thoughts[3].

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Self-reflection guide. Adapted from Gibb's (1988) reflective cycle.

    Scientists have proved the significance of reflective practice on your productivity. A group of students at the Harvard Business School found out that call center agents who reflected for 15 minutes on what they’ve learned outperformed their colleagues by 23%.[4]

    Self-reflection will enable you to keep your goals in mind constantly, which will ultimately help you make progress.

    How do you make this happen?

    Set up a Weekly Appointment With Yourself

    During this period, define your goals and reflect on them. It will also help you verify if your goals are still achievable.

    Ask Reflective Questions

    Did I achieve all I planned? What salient lesson can I pick this week? What new things did I learn, and what actions do I need to make progress?

    6. Celebrate Your Achievements

    It is highly crucial to acknowledge every milestone you complete as you make progress in life. Celebrating your achievements will build your confidence and provide you with motivation to continue.

    One of the best ways to do this is by pampering yourself with rewards when you achieve a goal. These rewards could be things you enjoy, such as a special meal, a music collection, or a mini-vacation.

    These little rewards will continuously remind you of victory anytime you feel like giving up. Merely looking at your mini-vacation pictures will motivate you to keep working towards your next goals.

    Celebrating your achievements will enable you to build on existing momentum and will allow you to attract more successes.[5]

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    Bonus Tips

    Here are other things that you can do to help you make progress toward your goals.

    Invest in Self-Improvement

    Self-development enhances your self-worth and self-confidence. You can improve yourself by listening to podcasts or audiobooks on any subject of interest. You can also attend webinars, seminars, or workshops to enhance your skills and broaden your knowledge.

    Keep Moving

    Every success comes with obstacles. Not giving up on your goals despite setbacks will help you achieve anything you desire. For instance, if you write a book and don’t make a single sale, write another one.

    Don’t allow anything to discourage you from making progress. In case you missed a deadline, train yourself to meet the next one. A positive attitude will enable you to stay on course and infuse you with confidence.

    Final Words

    Goals offer you a sense of purpose and fulfillment when accomplished. When you make progress relentlessly in the direction of your goals, you build up the confidence to overcome obstacles, and every setback becomes a stepping stone to achieve your next target.

    Apply these six practical steps to make progress and achieve every goal you have set.

    More on How to Make Progress Toward Goals

    Featured photo credit: Khiet Tam via unsplash.com

    Reference

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