Do you wish to work with focus by eliminating distractions but fail every day? Do you find your mind wandering, your phone beeping and the world talking, making it hard to focus on the task at hand? Have you heard the term ‘Deep Work’ and wondered what it is?
In this article, you will learn how to work with an intense focus without any distractions. You will know the methods used to work fewer hours with an intense focus to produce far better results than long hours of distracted work.
This article is Step 7 – How to eliminate distractions and apply deep work of Phase 2: Gain Momentum with Routine of the 3 phase transformation into superhuman productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.
When you work on a task how focused are you on it? If you have paid heed to the previous advice on how to easily increase focus and reduce distractions you should have eliminated distractions from smartphones, emails, and chat by now.
These activities are a good start. From here, you can notch your focus a level up by incorporating a state of flow while you are at a task. This style of working has been well described by Cal Newport in his book Deepwork.
The State of Flow
Working in a state of flow is more than just eliminating distractions. It is about getting into the right state of mind where you are on a mission to get work done. In this state, you are completely immersed in the task at hand.
In his best selling book – Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as the state where time seems to be running at a different speed. For a painter, the last 2 hours would seem like a few minutes. For a ballet dancer, that difficult dance move which requires 2 seconds can feel like hours.
We have all had those moments where we were doing something we love and all of a sudden we gasp “Oh my god, is it 1 PM? It was 10:30 AM just sometime ago”
When you are in such a state, you are in the state of flow. The intense focus and the passion for the task lead to an altered perception of time.
Imagine what your output would be if you managed to work on daily basis in the same state of flow. That is exactly what you will learn to do.
The Formula for Quality of Work
Cal Newport describes the outcome of your effort using a simple mathematical formula.
Outcome of work = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)
Time is a constant for everyone. If 2 people work for an hour, each has the same 60 minutes in the formula. What defines the difference in the outcome is the Intensity of Focus.
You already knew this formula. The difference on the day you work with focus and the day you work texting a friend is crystal clear to you. Even if you refuse to admit it, deep down you do know your productivity is hampered due to distractions.
The mission for you right now is to learn how to do Deep work.
So, what is Deep work?
Cal Newport defines deep work as:
“Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
On the other spectrum, we have shallow work:
“Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.”
In all likelihood, your day goes by indulging in shallow work. There might be a few small time windows intermittently in the day during which you work with focus. However, the smaller they are the less effective they are.
Challenges to Deep Work in Modern Day
The modern world makes this even more challenging. The open area work environment, those endless meetings, the routine reports which no one cares about and the continuous stream of email/chat exchange prohibits deep work of any sort.
Leave a comment on how easy or difficult is it for you to work without distractions in your current environment.
We are working in a highly distracted world and we end up doing shallow work without any other choice.
In a world filled with distraction, find a way for yourself to apply Deep work as your regular working style. You will stand out, you will prosper.
Deep work is not about working for long hours. It is about working effectively for the hours you work. If you manage to make it your regular routine, trust me your efficiency will be superhuman.
Models of Deep Work
There are multiple principles of Deep work which you can apply. Each one involves working in isolation but varies in style, duration and the degree of solitude.
Monastic is where you isolate yourself for a long duration such as weeks or months. In this model, you are away from your normal routine for a long duration focusing on what you are out to achieve. Writers and scientists commonly use this model.
Bimodal is where you reserve a few days in a week. In this model, you have your normal routine for most days of the week. On the other days, you work in isolation. Some aspiring entrepreneurs who are currently holding a job to make ends meet, use this model.
Journalistic is where you get into a Deep work session whenever you have time. Only people with practice in other styles can manage such immediate focus with ease.
The easiest style is Rhythmic where you apply Deep work for a certain amount of hours(3-4) hours in a day in 3-4 chunks of 60 – 90 minutes each. Successful entrepreneurs, writers, artists, and millionaires use this model.
You are free to choose any of these models. The monastic and bimodal styles are difficult to incorporate if you are working at your job and chasing your dream at the same time. The Rhythmic style can be fit into any body’s schedule.
How to apply Deep Work
Here is the complete guide on implementing Deep work.
The essence of Deep work is to be focused without any distractions. A detailed article is present at How to reduce distractions.
Smartphones are out of the window. So are the people around you.
Ok, maybe not out of the window, but away. You get the point.
If possible, find a private place or a room. Wear headphones or lock yourself in a room or put up a Do Not Disturb sign or cover yourself with a blanket. You get the point. Do whatever it takes to prevent anyone from reaching you.
Make a Habit of Deep work:
Incorporate Deep work into your routine. This is easier said than done. To incorporate Deep work into your routine, you need very strong willpower. To begin, you need to decide your Deep working hours. Once you do, you need a ruthless commitment to follow Deep work during the allotted hours.
Start small, even if it is only an hour. Try to apply deep work at the same time every day. Repetition makes it easier to manage schedules.
Do only what matters:
Do not attempt to do all your tasks in the day with Deep work. Neither will that work nor is that the idea. The purpose of Deep work is to utilize it only for those tasks necessary, which are your long term goals. Do not use Deep work to complete the urgent task you have to finish tonight. For example, if you are a writer, use Deep work to write content for your next book, not to reply to emails.
Track your progress:
Find a way to measure your progress. It is not always easy. A writer can track progress by counting the number of words written during the Deep work hours. During the day you will have other things to do such as reach out to bloggers, email your subscribers, or reply to emails. Such activities should be done outside the Deep work hours.
Do not overdo Deep work:
Deep work requires intense focus which will drain you. Getting 4 hours of Deep work a day is a plenty. Trying to overdo will only tire you. The more hours you try to add to Deep Work, the lesser focused you will be overall. As mentioned earlier, the purpose of Deep work is not to work longer but to be more effective.
Disconnect completely end of the day:
Last but not least, at the end of the day, disconnect completely. Set a time at which you will stop working. When the clock hits the mark, you must stop doing your focused Deep work. It is an alarm reminding you that you are done for the day.
If some thoughts still linger on after logging off, do not stress it out. It is expected. However, do not get back to working with pen, paper, computer or any of your work-related tools. You will not touch them until the next day. You will instead relax or treat yourself or do something you enjoy doing. Zoning out will help your brain recuperate over the evening and start afresh the next day.
Frequently asked questions
Any task or project done with your complete attention is Deep work. This means no phones, no TV, no social media, no chit chat or any other distractions. It should be you and the task alone.
When you begin completing 1 hour of Deep work will seem like a challenge. Once you cultivate the habit, you will love the model. As per the author, 4 hours of Deep work is good enough for the day and you will get a ton of things done.
For me, I find it easier to apply Deep Work during the mornings. But the same may not apply to you. You might be at your creative best in the evening or even at night. There is no good time to apply Deep work as far as you manage to focus your attention on one task without any distractions. The recommended time of the day is when it is easiest to eliminate distractions based on your schedule, role, and environment.
In this article, you learned how to work with focus of a hawk instead of working for long hours. You are now aware of different models of deep work and how to apply them.
With the tips provided to start applying deep work right now, you can achieve a significant difference in your productivity. Do you have any questions or difficulties applying Deep Work? Leave a comment to help me know which of the different models do you prefer.
This article is Step 7 – How to eliminate distractions and apply deep work of Phase 2: Gain Momentum with Routine of the 3 phase transformation into super human productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.
What I am not:
What I am:
Continuously improving self-learner
Productivity/Time Management Obsessed