Deep work is only possible when you dedicate significant blocks of time to it. As soon as you've done this and actually want to get to work, you can be completely certain that you will be bombarded with the desire to do anything but deep work.
So, we need ideas to battle these distractions. Because deep work is what we need. Here are the four most important ones:
- Have a plan and set a deadline. It starts with having a clear idea on what you want to accomplish in your block of focussed time. Secondly, lots of people function really well with deadlines. By setting a clear goal and a time limit, you force yourself to get down to the actual work. Just like the route you take to work, build a ritual out of this. This will help get more out of your time.
- Disconnect. One of the biggest distractions are incoming notifications on your phone. Cal suggests going completely offline and with that killing a huge group of possible escapes for your deep work session.
- Train your focus. This is an important idea from the book. We are so conditioned to be connected all the time, that it is hard to just stand in line at the supermarket and wait, without doing anything. We also have this craving when working on hard things: we want to be surprised by our notifications and if we're stuck with a hard problem, we love to check email to get away from our deep work. We can train our focus by refusing to giving in, and this can start really small. For example: limit switching to social media, limit checking your email.
- Keep others out. Mark your deep work time in your calendar. Some people even set up an out of office reply so they can work on large projects without feeling the pressure on handling email. Others close the door of their office and let their colleagues know they really can't be disturbed. It might also be necessary to adjust your schedule. In the book, there are several examples of people that aren’t able to work deeply in normal office hours. So they start their days early to get their focussed hours in.
Today's assignment: when working today, make a list of the things that distract you. Also record the urges, whether you're giving in to them or not. Now, for the three biggest ones, come up with at least one experiment you could try to eliminate the distraction.