Learning how to master deep work will teach you a lot about your productivity habits! For example, why do people tend to procrastinate their biggest, most important projects? Why does there never seem to be the time in the day for the most meaningful tasks? This post will discuss how to overcome procrastination, master deep work, and double your productivity.
What Is Deep Work?
Cal Newport coined the term “deep work” in his book of the same name. He defines the phrase in this way:
Unfortunately, Newport’s book is very heavy-handed with technical wording.
As a result, blog post exists to familiarize you with the main concepts, so you don’t have to wade through a very dense book!
(If you do want to take a stab at it, you can find the book HERE.)
Allow me to simplify.
Deep work is any task that requires deep concentration, usually for extended periods.
Some examples of deep work are:
- Writing a business plan
- Developing a training
- Coding a website
- Analyzing data
- Creating a budget
- Reading research articles
- Planning an event
On the other hand, we understand deep work is by looking at its opposite – busy work. Busy work tasks are necessary items on your to-do list, but they can distract and derail your productivity!
Busy work tasks are things like:
- Checking email
- Sending emails
- Managing social media
- Chatting with coworkers (or family members, if you’re working at home)
- Filing paperwork
- Making copies
- Phone calls
- Texting, Voxxer, voice messaging, etc.
None of these activities are necessarily bad. But, they do detract a lot of time and energy from deep work (or real work, as I like to call it).
Deep Work and Flow
To better understand deep work, it’s good to learn about the psychological concept of flow.
“In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”Wikipedia
For example, have you ever been so “in-the-zone” that you spent hours working on something, but it only felt like a few minutes?
Psychologist and best-selling author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to this state as “flow.”
(You can find her book “Flow,” here.)
Consequently, deep work and flow go hand in hand. The more you learn how to find your flow, the easier it is to master deep work and double your productivity!
We will talk more about flow a bit later.
Why is Deep Work Important?
To engage in deep work is to do what you were hired to do. Think about it. Were you hired to check email and file paperwork? Not exactly.
That is to say, you were hired because you have skills and abilities that allow you to do deep work. Whether it’s accounting, developing software, or teaching a class, deep work is the most essential part of your job.
The projects you complete are also what end up on your resume for your next job.
It’s crucial to master deep work to advance your career and be a valuable member of your team.
How to Master Deep Work
Time Block Your Schedule
Firstly, organize your work day with time blocking. Don’t let busy work tasks eat up your day! Schedule large, uninterrupted blocks of time for your most important tasks.
I have a complete guide to time blocking for beginners. It’s a great post that will help you get started, but here is a summary of the steps:
- Sort your weekly work into groups of deep work and busy work
- Estimate how much time each task should take
- Identify what times of day you are most productive
- Schedule your deep work time blocks during your most productive times
- Add in your busy work blocks at your less productive times of day
- Do not stop working until the time block is over! If you finish a task, move on to a similar task (whether it’s busy work or deep work)
Set a Timer for Your Deep Work Time
This tip goes hand in hand with time blocking. But if you aren’t feeling up to creating a whole schedule, this is a trick that comes in handy.
When you sit down to work on a deep work task, set a timer for the amount of time, you want to work attentively.
Stop the timer when you get up to use the bathroom or are otherwise distracted. The timer should only run when you are actively engaged in the task.
Keep working until the timer goes off. If you feel like you’ve finished before, revise your work and look for ways to make it better. Talk about productivity!
Build Your Focus Stamina
Your brain is a muscle that you must exercise regularly to make it stronger. What controls your focus? Why, your mind, of course!
So, exercise your focus by starting small. Try working for ten minutes, entirely focused, and no interruptions. When you’ve mastered ten minutes of focus, move on to fifteen or twenty.
Work your way up to an hour or two hours of total engagement. It takes practice to build a good habit, but it’s doable to master – I promise!
Start Your Day with Deep Work
This is a tip that doubled my productivity, without a doubt!
Spend the first thirty minutes of your workday engaged in deep work. That means before you check email, before you chat with your coworkers, and before you log on to Facebook.
As a blogger, I was in the habit of immediately checking my blog traffic and email conversions first thing in the morning. I would spend a good twenty minutes perusing all of my stats and thought I was being a great blogger.
In reality, I was actually setting myself up for a very low productivity day. Starting my mornings with busywork completely distracted me from the most critical work of my day.
If my numbers were down, I struggled to get any content written. On the other hand, if my views were high, I would get distracted with silly analytics that weren’t helping my business grow.
Before you have time to think about your workday, get something meaningful done. Don’t even give yourself the chance to procrastinate! Spend your first thirty minutes engaged in deep work. You won’t regret it!
Do Mindset Work Daily
Mindset work is a bit of a buzzword these days, so allow me to clarify. It just means exercises that train your mind to think more effectively.
I’m a huge fan of mindset work – mainly because it’s effective. Controlling your thoughts and thinking patterns is a massive determiner of success.
So how exactly do you do mindset work?
If you haven’t downloaded my 21-day guide, “5 Minute Mindset,” I recommend you do! Otherwise, Pretty Little Grind is packed with mindset journaling prompts, affirmations for entrepreneurs, affirmations for women, and how to power up your gratitude practice.
An easy way to start your day with mindset is to choose an affirmation to meditate on for five minutes. For example, you can journal about it, think on it quietly, or combine it with your yoga practice.
Train Your Brain to Enjoy Deep Work
Another significant reason we avoid engaging in deep work is that we associate it with discomfort. What would happen if we started relating our best work with good feelings?
Instead of focusing on the pain points of deep work, try noticing the parts of the process that feel good.
Maybe you get a little adrenaline rush when you complete an enormous project. Sit with that feeling and connect it with your hard work.
Or maybe you get lost in writing, and the words start pouring out of you naturally. What a cool moment! Take a second to associate that feeling with deep work.
In short, the more you can train your brain to love the process, the easier it will be to master deep work.
Find Your Flow
Similarly, it’s good to take note of when you are in flow – your “in-the-zone” mode. The goal is to recreate the environment in which it is easiest for you to access your flow.
If you find flow more frequently in the morning, try to do your deep work in the morning. Similarly, notice where you work best – at your desk, at home, outside. Consider whether music helps or hinders your flow.
By recreating your “flow zone,” you can more quickly master deep work and increase your productivity.
What Prevents Me from Engaging in Deep Work?
Mindset and attitude towards deep work tasks
Let’s face it. Most of us have a bad attitude when it comes to work items that we view as “difficult” or “time-consuming.” This negativity comes from a lifetime of practicing the path of least resistance.
As a rule, our minds tend to associate less resistance with more happiness. Actually, we are much happier when we do our best work and have success! It takes time to train your brain to connect deep work with satisfaction, but it’s entirely possible!
The state of constant distraction
As an adult, I’m often mortified at how short my attention span has become! Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok have trained my brain to pay attention for very short periods of time. I’m sure it’s not just me!
Consequently, developing your focus takes time and effort to train your brain. Your brain is a muscle that needs to be trained, just like other muscles in your body! An untrained mind is more likely to wander.
Expecting your brain to focus without training is like expecting a couch potato to get up and run a marathon! Similarly, you need to build your attention stamina bit by bit.
Are you operating in a scarcity mindset or an abundance mindset? If you often find yourself thinking or saying the following, you’re probably stuck in scarcity mindset:
“There’s never enough time in the day.”
“I’m literally tired all the time.”
“I don’t get paid enough for this.”
“It’s not like anything I actually do matters at this job.”
These messages may seem harmless, but here is how your mind and body translate them:
Not enough time.
Or enough energy.
Not enough money.
And not enough significance.
In short, the only thing your brain is hearing is not enough! What your mind does with this information is very interesting. Your mind goes into self-preservation mode – AKA looks for the path of least resistance.
On the path of least resistance are avoidance, procrastination, and minimal effort. Yikes! Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
However, abundance mindset tells your brain that you have enough for today. It signals that you are good to go. The mind understands that you have all of your needs met and can stop stressing about trivial things.
Therefore, your brain to put more energy towards finding opportunities and solving problems.
How Do I Get Rid of Scarcity Mindset?
The most effective way to achieve an abundance mindset is to practice gratitude regularly! Don’t believe me? Fill one page a day with gratitude journaling. Do this for thirty days and see how it affects your productivity!
More Deep Work Resources
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Still have questions?
Please send me an email! I’m a real person, and I really respond to every email I get! I’d love to help you get started with engaging in deep work.
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