How to Start and Stick to a Deep Work Routine
Deep work by Cal Newport is a masterpiece. If I could recommend one book, that's it. Most knowledge workers don't have a full hour to themselves. No wonder we all feel so overwhelmed and always behind.
I adopted a consistent deep work practice about 3 years ago. Since then, I get much more done, I work less hours and I feel accomplished as I am doing meaningful things in that time. It didn't come naturally, I struggled at first, and until I made a few changes, this was hard to do. Most people fail at this due to the various blockers below.
These are the biggest blockers that prevent people from implementing a deep work routine.
- They allow the status quo to run their life
- They aren't deliberate
- They make it harder on themselves
- They expect perfection and get frustrated when that doesn't happen
Don't despair though, I am going to show you exactly how I overcame them with a step by step guide to making this a reality.
Step 1: Make the mental shift
Without the mindset change, nothing changes. This routine is no different. Everyone has concerns at first that hold them back.
-What if i miss something?
-People will think I am not working if they cant reach me
-My schedule is too busy to block an hour
A lot of these seem real, but are unfounded. If you are struggling now, maybe its worth trying something new. If you want different results, you need to try different actions. One hour a day is completely reasonable. If you were on an important call for an hour, you couldn't respond to chats or emails or take calls. "If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will."
Step 2: Block the same hour each day
This is going to give you the best odds of success. This makes it more of a life habit than a work habit. Every day from 7am to 8am is my deep work time. I don't need to think about it, schedule it or fit it in. Doing this has removed any friction form me making this a reality. I pick this time because it's when I am most alert, distractions are low and the feeling of accomplishment gets me in a great mood to face the day. Even if the rest of my day goes to hell, I have something to show for it. You can pick anytime that works for you, just schedule it and be consistent.
Step 3: Use technology the right way
I struggle with focusing, so I take the temptation away. I put my phone in another part of the house and use the freedom app to block my browser for an hour. This gives me no choice but to suck it up and do it. Sometimes the first 5-10 minutes suck, but usually you hit your stride and before you know it, the hour is over and you have a lot to show for it.
Step 4: Have what you need to do lined up
One of the biggest struggles people encounter is burning the first fifteen minutes their deep work figuring out what to do. This is precious time so you need to have what you are going to lined up so you can hit the ground running. At the end of each day, I like to have my top 3 things to do the next day lined up.
Step 5: Stick with it
If you commit and follow through with a deep work practice, you will be impressed with your results. Results can take time to add up, so it's easy to get frustrated and abandon ship early. Life happens, and I too don't get to do this every single day. However, even if i hit 4/5 times a week, that will add up to huge gains over time. Don't expect perfection, just incremental progress.