The Importance of Developing Habits for Deep Work

Deep Working is not easy nor natural. If anything, it has become harder to Deep Work in the wake of increasing distractions and multitasking urges. We have naturally developed working styles that produce Shallow work and this damage needs to be undone to get good at doing Deep Work. Think of Deep Working as an ability or a skill (some treat it as a superpower) that quickly enables people to concentrate quickly and consistently to produce high quality output on the task at hand. Any skill can be obtained by deliberate practice and these habits will help you naturally get good at Deep Work.

1. Time block your Deep Work activity

 Deep work time blocking is the act of scheduling your day into blocks of time to allow you to focus on a single task. You can do it on your physical diary, your calendar, or on deepwork.easy – The idea is to consciously prepare and mark periods of time for Deep Working.

2. (Theoretically) Finish the task in 5 minutes

Imagine that you only have 5 minutes to complete a task – What would you do to accomplish it? This puts the mind in an urgent mode to look for quick and dirty solutions. A quick solution is still a solution – at the end of it, you will become aware of the various aspects of the task at hand. Consider this quick and dirty solution as Version 1. After completing Version 1, it will be very natural for you to think of a much improved Version 2. Spend the rest of the time in executing Version 2. A typical Version 1, I employ is the Quick Plan, which forces me to write down the commands or steps that one would have to perform to complete the task. The mental exercise of writing the entire plan serves as a good visualization exercise and motivates you to execute right away. deepwork.easy tracks how frequently you accomplish the Version 1 of the task when it is scheduled using the Quick Plan feature.

3. Plan your Deep Work schedule ahead

A key to producing high-quality deep work is scheduling and organising it ahead of time. Scheduling the Deep Work blocks ahead introduces those tasks to the subconscious mind and provides an opportunity for the subconscious mind to crank the solution on its own. I particularly advise deep workers to sketch a schedule the day before to reap the benefits of “sleep-solving the problem”.

4. Replan your Deep Work schedule to be flexible

Its very easy to deviate from your Deep Work schedule. A coworker might need immediate help or you might have to attend a chore unexpectedly. Its inevitable that Unplanned events will derail your schedule. The strategy Cal Newport suggests is to quickly reschedule the Deep Work time blocks for the rest of the day. This replanning helps you to be flexible and adaptive and yet accomplish deep work. You can use Cal Newport’s Time-Block planner or deepwork.easy for this purpose.

5. Following a Deep Ritual

Deep workers eventually develop their unique strategy to quickly get into a Deep Work mode and to continue the execute the task with sustained focus. By sticking to the same strategy or routine, doing Deep Work becomes second nature as the mind is aware of the various stages of deep working.

6. Introspect your Time blocks

Planning Deep Work is one thing, but executing it is entirely a different aspect. Introspecting Deep Work time blocks gives you an opportunity to understand your Deep Work habits and serves as immediate feedback to your working style. deepwork.easy automatically studies your Deep Work habits based on this quick feedback.

7. Be consistent

It’s easier to develop habits if you are consistent. Aiming to to do at least 90 minutes of Deep Work reinforces the habit and helps you stay on track.

8. Do weekly planning

In Time-Block planner, Cal Newport recommends preparing an overview of the Deep Work items to be done before the week kicks off. This exercise helps prioritise the goals for the upcoming week and serves as a backlog for daily Deep Work planning.

9. Execute your Shut Down Ritual

Shutting down your work routine is important because it allows you to take a break from the mental and physical strain of work and spend time recovering. Though everyone is different, there are some general tasks that people often do at the end of their day. Typical Shutdown activities involve introspecting on the day’s Deep Work activities, scheduling blocks for tomorrow and saying “Shutdown Complete” aloud. This ritual signals the end of the work day and serves as a notice to not think of anything work related for the rest of the day. Effecting resting strategies are essential complementary activities for effective deep working.

If you are serious about developing Deep Work habits (and everyone should be 🙂 – you should consider using deepwork.easy and experience how your working style habits improve for the better.