Four Practices for Engaging in Deep Work

Jann Freed Leading 2 Comments

If you want to be more productive and/or you need your employees to be more productive, this post is for you.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about why it is important to do deep work.  Based on the book Deep Work:  Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport, I described why it is important yet harder than ever to engage in deep work.  Now I want to share some tips from Newport about how to do this kind of work.

While it sounds easy and we can acknowledge how critical it is to be productive, how we make this happen is another challenge.  Since time is our most valuable asset, we need to know how to leverage our time in ways that matter most.

Newport discovered these tips from a foreword Clayton Christiansen wrote for the book titled The 4 Disciplines of Execution.  This book was based on research consisting of numerous case studies with companies helping them implement high-level strategies.  According to Newport, “the underlying concepts seem to apply anywhere that something important needs to get done against the backdrop of many competing obligations and distractions.”

To me, that sounds as if it would apply to most of us in too many situations!

Discipline #1:  Focus on the Wildly Important

  • Identify a small number of ambitious outcomes to work on during your deep work hours.  Instead of allocating more time to “work more deeply,” set specific goals that you want to accomplish.

Discipline #2:  Act on the Lead Measures

  • To measure success, lead measures “measure the new behaviors that will drive success on the lag measures.”  The most relevant lead measure is “time spent in a state of deep work dedicated toward your wildly important goal.”

Discipline #3:  Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

  • Create a tangible way to post deep work hour count where it is easily visible.  Mark the hours spent in deep work and goals accomplished.  This can be a way of tracking how many hours it takes to accomplish the goal.

Discipline #4:  Create a Cadence of Accountability

  • Schedule a weekly review to assess progress and make necessary adjustments.

These four steps can be used with teams and/or individuals.  While they sound simple, they are probably new practices and new ways of behaving.  As I review Newport’s book, I am reminded of rituals.  Much of what he is advocating for deep work is to be aware of the numerous distractions, find places and times to minimize these distractions, and develop consistent behaviors to focus and get into the “flow” —where time flies because of the deep level of concentration.  In other words, make deep work a ritual–a significant and regular part of your life which you cherish.

Does this sound as if life is all work and no play?  Stay tuned.

How are you able to engage in deep work?

What advice would you give to be as productive as possible?