Are you looking for a productivity method to increase your concentration? Do you find yourself getting distracted and unable to focus on the task at hand? Then you might benefit from Cal Newport’s Deep Work Method, a highly effective way of engaging in your studying or work by using your time wisely and planning your day methodically to achieve the best results. Read on to find out how you can do the deep work method.
What is the Deep Work Method?
The Deep Work Method was created by Cal Newport, an author and computer science professor at Georgetown University. In his bestselling book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Newport defines deep work as “Professional activity 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.” If you are not intentional about how you spend your time, your work hours will slip away towards activities that are “shallow work.” As information expands and shifts, keeping up and applying the knowledge you learn and producing work that is exceptional is less likely to happen. The ability to perform deep work is increasingly valuable in our economy because it is rare.
How to Practice Deep Work
So how do you start practicing the deep work method? Many of us don’t know how to focus deeply on a single task. In our school days, we would practice shallow work on a day-to-day basis, focusing on a single task repeatedly until it became second nature, with only the occasional deep work session when we would take a test or exam. Practicing deep work requires you to be intentional and have deep concentration for long periods of time.
Firstly, you need to choose your deep work strategy and all of them have their pros and cons. There are many different ones: The Monastic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling, The Bimodal Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling, The Rhythmic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling, or The Journalistic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling.
The Monastic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling is the most dedicated form of deep work, it has the highest potential for reward and the lowest level of context switching but it can be unrealistic for those who need to perform various tasks. The Bimodal Philosophy of Deep Work allows for a high amount of deep work, it enables you time to maintain other activities in your life and requires flexibility to arrange your time around your deep work.
The Rhythmic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling is ideal for individuals with a static schedule, you block off several hours each day for deep work, have a daily rhythm, and leave the rest of your hours for shallow work. The Journalistic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling is a good option for those who are always on the move and have little or no consistency in their work day. This method demands vigilance with time and the ability to notice the natural ebb and flows where you will be able to fit in small chunks of time to do the deep work. This method is not recommended for beginners of the deep work method. It’s important that you select a deep work philosophy that works for you, you can even try different methods until you find the one that suits you best.
Building a Deep Work Routine
When building a deep work schedule, you have to consider the following, location, duration, structure, and requirements. The location of where you study is important, choose a distraction-free space that works for long periods of focus. If a quiet environment isn’t possible, invest in some noise-canceling headphones, be consistent with your environment, and know that this is where you work. How much time you dedicate to your task is also something to consider, determine how much time you need to do your task before you begin. Maybe you can start with 15 minutes and work your way up to longer sessions? Your ability to focus is like flexing a muscle.
It’s also a good idea to set a structure for yourself that will work for your deep work session. Ask yourself if you need to switch off your phone to focus. Are you going to give yourself time for breaks? How are you going to measure your progress, by words written or pages read? Whatever it is, know the structure of your deep work session before you start. After you have done a few sessions, you will start to notice what you need to commit to your deep work. Is it a particular beverage, favorite music or ASMR? Remember to be consistent with it and do it every time you do a deep work session.
When your day-to-day goals don’t feel like enough, Newport suggests something called a “grand gesture.” Do something out of the ordinary such as asking to work from home instead of the office or going on a business trip or retreat to refresh your motivation. This novelty or change of scenery or the way you work will alter your mind to the importance of the task and therefore, it will increase your productivity during your deep work session.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution
In his book, Newport introduces a concept called The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals. Which helps you direct your effort towards your most important goals. Maybe you can use a sticky note with a list of your top priorities and look at them every day, to remind yourself what needs to be done.
Although you think it might be valuable to maximize your lagging measure, which can be anything from the number of words or pages read, it is more sustainable to optimize your lead measure, which is the number of hours you spend per week in a state of focused concentration to achieve your goals. It’s also important to keep a track of your hours and keep it somewhere visible to motivate yourself.
Finally, create a cadence of accountability by keeping your word to yourself about progress and committing to regular reviews of your progress. Ask yourself if you completed your goal of hours spent on deep work that week and see if you completed your to-do list, if you didn’t, look at ways to amend your schedule and approach to achieve them the following week.
The Importance of Rest
But remember that the deep work method isn’t all about the work. Rest and downtime are key elements of this productivity method because resting your brain improves the quality of your work. There is a power in the pause, when you stop to reflect and refresh, it is necessary to give yourself time for yourself. It’s important to be aware that our brains have a limit on its capacity to be in deep focus mode. Set yourself a shutdown ritual every day, where you close your laptop, turn off your work emails and relax and unwind.
Enhance your ability to do deep work
To strengthen the practice and get the most out of deep work, you have to practice over time to develop the skill. Remember that distractions are the enemy of deep work, so it’s best to try and take away the things that take away your focus, including your phone. Newport says that “efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.”
Make your focus your default mode, rather than switching back and forth between distractions and your work, tell yourself you are going to be offline when you are working, remove all distractions and schedule yourself some time to scroll through your social media or go on the internet, it might even be a good idea to get a site-blocking app on your phone when you are struggling to focus on your deep work session.
Make Time for Deep Thinking
Some people find that adding the pressure of a timer can intensify their deep work sessions, this won’t work for everybody, but if you are someone that works better under pressure, think about setting a timer on your phone for small deep work sessions. Newport describes this as “interval training for the attention centers of your brain.” Make time in your day for deep thinking, mindfulness meditation is when you bring your attention back to your breath when your mind wanders.
Productive meditation is when you take the time in your day to do something physical such as walking, jogging or showering, and focus on just one professional problem or task you are trying to solve. Newport suggests that a few times a week, you should engage in productive meditation as this improves your ability to think deeply and ultimately avoid distractions when you sit down to work or study.
So that’s the basics of the Deep Work Method and if you want more information, then read Carl Newport’s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.