Deep work, and how to make time for it

March 29, 2017

Learn how to eliminate distraction and increase your productivity with these nine tips for deep work.

There is a way of working that can not only improve your focus and performance, but also make you happier. Writer Cal Newport calls it “deep work”.

So what is deep work? According to Newport, it’s as simple as “when you focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task”. That means no meetings, no emails, no Facebook – just one uninterrupted burst of concentrated thought and creativity.

“Shallow work”, which is work completed in the midst of distractions, can be fragmentary and unfocused. Worse, it can make you unhappy. “Someone who’s based mainly in shallow work, neurologically speaking,” writes Newport, “is going to eventually construct an understanding of their world that is stressful and fractured.”

Conversely, deep work offers a sense of control and autonomy that can be highly satisfying. Giving your full attention to the task at hand and entering a state of flow is a deeply rewarding and productive experience.


Here are nine tips on how to make the time for deep work while getting the most out of it:

Block out time

Instead of working around distractions, schedule a set amount of time for deep work. Give this time the priority it needs by treating it like an important meeting that can’t be cancelled.

Be realistic

No one can do deep work all day every day. What’s more, there are occasions when you have to be available for interruptions. Instead of overcommitting and then reneging, set a realistic, achievable amount of deep work to complete each week.

Rise early

The early bird not only catches the worm, but also avoids distractions. Often there aren’t as many emails, phone calls or meetings first thing in the morning, so plan for deep work during that quiet time.

Dismiss distractions

Barring an emergency, don’t stop deep work for distractions. Even a quick glance at the phone can break a hard-earned focus, and most of the time that email can wait.

Say “no”

There is a wide range of ways to say “no” to distractions keeping you from deep work without flatly refusing everything. This can involve anything from reducing the time you’re available for meetings to kindly asking to postpone a phone call.

Prepare a routine

Completing a set ritual before deep work will create an association between your actions and the concentration that follows. This will train you to slip into the right state of mind with more ease and speed.

Practice being bored

You will need to be comfortable with boredom to sustain the focus needed for effective deep work. Stretch your boredom muscles every day by resisting the temptation to busy yourself when your interest wanes.

Set goals

Establish concrete, actionable tasks to be completed during deep work. With something to aim for, you will remain focused on the job at hand without wasting time wondering what to do.

Turn up the pressure

Set demanding deadlines for each deep work task. The time constraints will force you to work harder and smarter, maximising what you get out of each session.



Article by The Plato Project

We believe in a new approach to business and thus a new approach to business education. We deliver ‘stackable’ education programs that enable entrepreneurs and business leaders to thrive and succeed in the modern economy. Our directors have created some of Australia’s most iconic and innovative organisations, including Moonlight Cinema, Smiling Mind and Australia’s first B-Corp Certified property development group, Neometro. They’ve also been instrumental in modernising education, establishing Australia’s first bachelor degrees in Applied Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship, as well as developing industry-leading organisations such as Builders Academy and Lennox College.



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