Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Carl Pullein

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

Why You Need to Set Future Goals (And How to Reach Them) How to Use Deep Work to Wipe out Distractions And Boost Productivity 7 Ways Minimalist Living Improves Your Productivity What Is a Bullet Journal and What Are the Benefits? How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

Trending in Smartcut

1 How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples) 2 15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included) 3 How to Change Habits When You Feel Stuck in a Rut 4 Need Journal Inspiration? 15 Journal Ideas to Kickstart 5 How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

Advertising

Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

Advertising

Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

Advertising

2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

Advertising

6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next