Working in open-space offices is challenging. It is almost impossible to concentrate on actual work. Someone always walks around, holds meetings in common areas, or talks over the phone.
What a disaster for those individuals involved in deep work, like me! I often have to develop new marketing strategies, conduct research, or produce content for blogs.
I was wondering if there is a better way to concentrate on work and become more productive. Likely, I’ve stumbled upon a bestseller by Cal Newport called “Deep Work,” which helped me to optimize the way I organize my office life and treat my working time.
Cal Newport explains the concept of a deep worker as an individual involved in creative, highly brain-consuming activities. Deep workers manage to complete challenging, creative tasks with high quality, faster than others.
Are you wondering how to master deep work and nail your tasks like a pro? Here are the most valuable insights from the book that you might find helpful as well. When put in practice, these recommendations should help to improve concentration, increase productivity, and your value on the job market.
1. Eliminate Distractions
How often are you disturbed by your phone or email during the day? I should admit, I instantly react to phone notifications and emails, assuming there is something urgent.
Very often, there is nothing. It is just another disturbance that prevents me from working effectively during the day.
Cal Newport explains that our brain gives the highest priority to these interruptions because we perceive them as “things that can’t be delayed” and if we delay checking our phones or emails, it causes anxiety or a mental disorder.
“What we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore define the quality of our life.“ — Cal Newport.
It gets too difficult to focus on other tasks if our brain continually reminds us of a new email or a message. The author suggests cleaning up the workspace, creating a schedule for tasks, and allocating energy-consuming activities to your most productive hours.
2. Schedule Your Day Time
Many people spend most of their day on autopilot, not thinking about what they should be focusing on.
When it’s 6 pm, you might get surprised that the working day is over, but there are so many tasks left on your plate.
Cal Newport suggests scheduling every minute of a working day to focus on deep work and leave almost no free time for shallow, unimportant stuff.
For instance, I usually schedule my working hours via Google Calendar on Fridays before a new working week. It helps to evaluate the backlog and organize the remaining tasks according to the level of priority.
“Decide in advance what you’re going to do with every minute of your workday. It’s natural, at first, to resist this idea, but you must overcome this distrust of structure if you want to approach your true potential as someone who creates things that matter. “ — Cal Newport.
Cal Newport suggests developing a new habit of finishing one task at once (if feasible). The author assures that it will help your brain eliminate the effect of attention being passed over to another task.
3. Recharge Your Mental State
Deep work requires a high level of concentration and creative solutions.
Creativity is an abstract, mental state that does not appear on its own. You have to learn how to turn your creativity on immediately.
Newport suggests recharging our mental batteries from the intensive day periods by changing the activity and environment. It is essential to give your mind power off-hours and switch to other, less intensive tasks.
I am full of energy and new ideas in the mornings, after the weekends, and on holiday trips. Moreover, my brain can continue working on energy-consuming tasks after a short 30 mins walk outside.
People can’t continuously perform deep work without refreshing the brain. The key book takeaway is to start listening to your body and learn your pick productivity hours.
4. Minimize Shallow Work
The shallow work includes non-cognitive, low-output, monotonous activities that do not require much brain capacity and are easy to replicate. It covers checking emails, passively attending meetings, browsing the Internet, filling out the forms, updating reports, etc.
These activities can occupy the whole day! However, they rarely contribute to personal or business objectives.
I rarely feel satisfied after shallow working days. I often leave the office thinking I have not done anything meaningful.
Repetitive negative thoughts develop anxiety that adversely influences our mental state. It is not possible to avoid routine activities. Hence, you have to be mindful about how much time you dedicate to them.
After all, “Not every email needs acknowledgment.“ — Cal Newport.
Start Working Faster Without Sacrificing Quality
We are living in a dynamic world, and we do not know how tomorrow will look like. Will we have enough jobs for everyone? What kind of workplaces will be replaced by machines? What kind of new jobs will appear?
Deep work teaches self-discipline, creativity, leadership, as well as thinking. Those who challenge and train their minds today create a successful future, albeit any uncertainties.
If we can't function as knowledge workers, we risk being outperformed by a cheaper labor force or even machines.
So far, creativity and nonstandard decision-making processes make humans superior to machines. Hopefully, it will stay like this in the future.
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