How to get important work done

We live in a world that is full of distraction. And too often we confuse busyness with achievement. If we want our actions to produce the results we are after, being busy just doesn’t cut it. Shallow work that is not aligned with our objectives can keep us busy all day, but does not move us ahead.

If we want to make significant progress on our wildly important goals, then we need to make sure we are able to do what the author Cal Newport describes as “Deep Work”. And this can be learned.

How do we battle distraction?

Being effective does not mean to add just one more thing to our already busy schedule. Instead it requires us to cut away all the noise and focus on the few really important things. We do this by focusing in on our most important goals.

Now, distraction is guaranteed to come, not only from the outside. Whenever a task gets difficult, our own minds will look for distraction. I can tell from personal experience. We can train ourselves not to give in to these distractions so easily.

The biggest, easily available distraction these days is technology. If we do not want that to take over our lives, we need to manage it wisely. To get started, there are technical tools to assist us, especially for those times when our willpower is very low. Tools like “Cold Turkey” and “Freedom”.

We can make a pre-decision when we want to go online, and then have the software manage that decision instead of us. When the block is set, it is impossible to access the sites until the pre-determined block ends. We still get to make the decision, but we get to make the decision when it is still easy. And then the software helps us follow through.

How do we learn to focus?

So one part of enabling deep work, is to cut away the noise, to resist the temptation of distraction. The other part of enabling deep work is learning to focus. This is best done in focused chunks of work. There are different ways you can organize deep work in your life. Depending on the specific circumstances of your situation. I recommend reading “Deep Work” by Cal Newport for detailed examples for different situations. That said, there is one very effective tool that I currently use to train my ability to focus, it is called the “Mastery Journal”.

Recommendations for effective deep work sessions

  • Use your best time during the day for focused work. For me this is the mornings. Focus and concentration will take your very best.
  • Do it consistently. It needs training. And will show huge benefits after we do it for some time. It is especially helpful if we find a way to measure our progress in training focus. This is where the “Mastery Journal” excels.
  • Keep well hydrated while doing work. I tend to forget this sometimes when I am really focused on a task. So I always put a bottle of water on the desk and fill my cup.
  • Take breaks to rejuvenate. To be able to do your best work, you need to be well rested. And you need to take breaks in between to renew your energy.

How about you? Which distractions are you facing? How do you go about it? Let me know in the comments below.

2 Replies to “How to get important work done”

  1. Gabriel, another great post. I really enjoyed Cal Newport’s book and I’m still implementing his concepts, in fact I probably need to re-read it. I have been using a pomodoro timer (tomatoid.com) to get into deep work segments, and a music program called focus at will (focusatwill.com). The pomodoro timer can be set to any block you want, but I generally find that less than half an hour is too little for me. So I deep work for 30 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break – 3-4 times in a row and then get a longer break of 20 minutes. Focus at will uses neurological technology and music to help you get into a place of focus.

    1. Grace, great to hear from you. I also want to improve implementing the concepts from “Deep Work”, especially I want to get deeper into productive meditation. I used FocusAtWill some time ago, did not use it in a while, a good reminder to test it again. Which of their music channels do you find most helpful for focused work? Using the pomodoro method, I find that it depends on my ability to focus. Most times I go for 20 Minutes, sometimes when I am in flow. I go for two sessions in a row.

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