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How Do You Achieve Deep Focus?

utkarsh profile image Utkarsh Talwar ・1 min read

I've been reading Deep Work by Cal Newport πŸ“™ lately and the idea of "deep work" really speaks to me. Deep work is described as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task for extended periods of time. ⌚

I often get distracted easily as I have a lot of browser tabs open, which is not surprising given the type of work I do. I know many other people face this problem too. πŸ™

So I wanted to ask those of you who've conquered this. How did you achieve it? How do you minimize distractions and achieve your peak focus state? πŸ’―

I personally try to use multiple browsers and/or context-based browser windows whenever possible. So, for example, I always have a few important tabs running on my main browser window. If I have to, say, write an article while doing research side by side, I open a new window and do everything related to that particular task (writing the article) in this window. πŸ€“ Once I'm done, I close all the tabs and go back to the main window.

That's just one of the things I do, but it's not a perfect solution, and it doesn't cover all types of distractions. I'm very interested in hearing what techniques you all use. πŸ˜ƒ

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Utkarsh Talwar

@utkarsh

Product Manager at Skynox Tech πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’Ό | Proud member of Team XenoX πŸ”₯ | Musician 🎸 | Product & UX geek 🀡 | Skill Monkey πŸ±β€πŸ‘€ | Javascript n00b πŸ‘Ύ | Huge nerd 🀩

Discussion

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Paper πŸ“ƒ , Pen πŸ–ŠοΈ, and Stopwatch ⏳ are all I use.

  1. Write your task on a paper
  2. Allocate TTS (time to solve)
  3. Any distraction, write it down as well.
  • One task at a time, I am a total no to parallel processing πŸ™ŒπŸ»

  • Two sections on the paper, TODO(Task goes here) and THOUGHTS (Distractions goes here)

  • I try not to allocate more than 15-20 mins to every task (or subtask) based on my attention span, which could be different for you.

  • If the task is not completed, go to the other task and come back to it later.

=> Whenever I go by this, multiple tabs doesn't seem to distract me.

 

Hmmm... I have tried using pen and paper in the past. Didn't work that well for me. But good to know your process and thoughts on the topic!

 

Put some headphones with white noise on repeat or some easy to listen music, close all other browser tabs, etc... With two monitors I usually have a full screen browser window on one screen and an Item/Vim instance (in full screen too).

Do a simple task list, with priorities, don't do anything else besides on what's on that list and don't edit the tasklist until you've finished it.

 

Do you tackle all your tasks on the list in a random order or do you use any kind of time batching for specific tasks?

 

I usually write them all in same the order I think about them. After writing everything down, I try to rearrange tasks giving them some priority and dependencies, so in order to achieve task #1 you have to complete task #1.1, #1.2, and so on.

I don't estimate how much time it will take a task, but I just log everything on clockify to get some stats later.

Thanks for providing clarity on this.

Just checked out Clockify. Looks good! My team and I have been using ClickUp so far and it also works well.

 

I haven't read Deep Work yet, but it's a modern take on the concept of Flow which has been around for much longer and was popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who's book I did actually just finish reading.

You should go check that one out. It's a little dry but talks about some interesting ideas.

 

Actually Cal talks about Csikszentmihalyi and his research (including the book Flow) in the book as well! He holds Csikszentmihalyi's work in high regard. I think I'd find similar ideas in that book as well! πŸ˜ƒ

 

Biggest thing for me, and everyone's results may vary, is having uptempo instrumental music playing.Other than that, close out of everything except what you're currently working on (Windows virtual desktops are nice for this if you don't want to actually close everything). Turn my phone off and get to work.

 

Good one! I do use virtual desktops to segregate different types of applications to minimize context switching.

Staying away from my phone as much as possible has been massively helpful lately. Music always helps. I love listening to instrumental ambient stuff, sometimes lo-fi and sometimes post-rock. Spotify's Deep Focus playlist is great!

 

This is my free tool for managing tasks, simple with no extra feature, it's using Eisenhower's matrix method to prioritize tasks and a progress bar at the bottom of screen to view status of the current task.

github.com/mehdico/Taskover

 

Nice truck usually I use the pomodoro timer for 10 to 15 minutes to solve the specific task and not opening others tabs simply to avoid distraction.

 

Nice. I've used Pomodoro in the past as well. Generally I find that, for day-to-day tasks, I do better when I run a 50 min work timer and take 10 min breaks.