Looking to improve your concentration at work so you can get ahead on difficult tasks? You need to read this expert guide to the deep work productivity method.
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We all know that taking breaks from work is a healthy thing to do, both for productivity levels and mental health. Techniques like the pomodoro method are based around this exact principle and many people have a lot of success using them. However taking a break can disrupt the flow of your work, particularly if you’re working on something creative or a task that requires a lot of concentration.
So how do you find the balance between taking breaks and getting stuff done? The deep work productivity method aims to answer this question. Created for specific tasks that require high levels of concentration, deep work encourages you to create a distraction-free zone and work for a set period of time without breaks.
“The brain can only concentrate properly for 20-25 minutes but deep work allows you to work for longer if you can get into a flow,” explains Clare Evans, a time management and productivity coach. This flow Clare refers to is an intense state of concentration and it’s something you can learn by practising deep work regularly.
So how do you get started with deep work? We asked Clare to talk us through the productivity method.
What kind of tasks should I do during deep work practice?
Deep work is designed for tasks that are going to take a longer period of time and might feel taxing on the brain, rather than quick easy tasks that you want to tick off a to-do list. “Anything that requires a high level of concentration like strategic planning and thinking, working on difficult numbers, or doing something highly creative is perfect for deep work,” Clare says.
This method works better for larger projects rather than individual tasks, particularly something you might be revisiting weekly or fortnightly.
How long should I practice deep work for?
The period of time you allocate to practice deep work is totally dependent on your personal needs. “Some people might shut themselves off for a long period of time. For example, if they’re writing a book, they might need 1-2 days per week,” Clare says.
Clare recommends setting 1-2 hours aside as a minimum for deep work so you can really get into your flow. You might want to start with a fairly small time frame and build it up each week if you feel the method is helpful. Clare suggests practicing deep work on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
“Schedule your deep work time into your calendar and block it out. Make it as non-negotiable as your commitments with other people because you need to take it seriously if you want it to be effective,” Clare adds.
How can I create a distraction-free zone to practise deep work?
Deep work allows you to get into a flow where it’s easier to concentrate but this will only work if you make it a priority to minimise distractions. “Try and remove yourself from your normal office or working environment,” Clare says. She encourages booking yourself a meeting room in an office or leaving your house if you work from home to go to a café or working space where you won’t be distracted by the doorbell or the people you live with.
“You should also switch off your phone and turn off email notifications. You could even set an out of office to say that you won’t be available during this period of time,” Clare suggests. She stresses the importance of being clear with your boundaries so no one around you disturbs you.
“Think about what else distracts you when you’re working. Make a note during your usual work week of any distractions that come up and find ways to minimise them during your deep work time,” she adds.
It’s also important that you’ve eaten enough and done some form of exercise before entering a deep work flow, according to Clare, so you don’t get hungry or feel fidgety while you’re trying to work. “Try your best to get a good night’s sleep the night before too so you don’t feel tired or sluggish,” Clare says.
What else can I do to make sure my deep work practice is effective?
As well as removing distractions, there are some other things you can do to improve your deep work practice. “Set yourself realistic goals and make sure you know what you want to achieve during this time period,” Clare says. You might be able to do more than you can expect during this time, if you really minimize distractions, but try to keep your goals achievable so you don’t rush important tasks.
“Another thing I suggest is buddying up with someone and setting a similar goal so you can get into the flow together and hold each other accountable,” says Clare. “It also adds a slight element of competition which can be helpful.”
You can find more expert advice and tips on The Curiosity Academy’s Instagram page.
Clare Evans, time management and productivity coach
Clare is a time management and productivity coach. She is the Author of Time Management For Dummies, Time Management and Productivity for Students and Working Through Cancer.
She works with busy professionals, virtually and face-to face to provide a practical, solution based approach, from the detail of email and to-do list overwhelm to your high-level business, personal and life goals.
Images: Getty, Clare Evans