Never waste another moment.
Do you struggle to get stuff done? Focus. Achieve things.
Have you installed every productivity app and extension known to man?
Yet still you spend your days in a distracted fuzz. Waiting for the inevitable finger of doom to swipe the smartphone of oblivion.
Do you want to do something about it? Learn new habits? Do deep work – and start living a life you're proud of?
Righty-ho, let's dive in.
People I know, admire; often both.
People who produce. Regularly. And with high quality. Entrepreneurs, CEOs, authors, Professors, bloggers, PRs, SEOs, digital marketers, speakers. You might be familiar with the catch-all term influencers. That's what they are. Here's the list (click to jump to their bit).
Ana Hoffman | Andy Crestodina | Beki Winchel | Belle Beth Cooper | Benjamin Hardy | Carrie Morgan | Cyrus Shepard | Dan Slee | David Meerman Scott | Doug Kessler | Eric Enge | Farzana Baduel | Gary Preston | Gini Dietrich | Jon Westenberg | Kelvin Newman | Michael Pozdnev | Neil Patel | Paul Armstrong | Paul Sutton | Rachel Miller | Rob Brown | Ryan Biddulph | Sarah Pinch | Scott Guthrie | Stephen Waddington | Stuart Bruce | Ted Rubin
I asked them three questions. Here's the email.
It's a term coined by Cal Newport Ph.D, assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University.
Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
He argues deep work will make you better at what you do, let you achieve more in less time, and provide the sense of true fulfilment that comes from mastery of a skill. You have to be the best because people are no longer limited by geography as to who they choose to hire. To be the best, you must be able to master hard things, quickly. And you cannot achieve this in a state of permanent distraction brought on by checking your smartphone 150 times a day.
Deep work is like a superpower in our increasingly competitive economy. But how can you do it? Let's dive in.
Ana is the founder of Traffic Generation
My two biggest daily challenges are social media and reading.
I read a lot every day –
Since I don't control the news (wouldn't that be nice...), my day is somewhat at the mercy of the marketing industry.
Sometimes, I feel like it would be so much easier to stop writing my Weekly Marketing Skinnies, but I can't – it's addicting to be in the know :O).
Social media is the obvious one as well. Being thoughtful takes time, but...if social media is worth doing, it's worth doing well, don't you think?
So how do I stand up to these two daily challenges? Two specific things come to mind:
1. I use OneTab Chrome extension to 'fold' all my open tabs into one111111 – that takes care of social media notifications and other distractions. Out of sight, out of mind. Then I open only what I need to get the project done. No distractions. Hopefully.
To keep myself even more in check, I use...
2. Momentum Chrome extension, which essentially replaces any new tab page I open with a personal dashboard featuring weather, inspiration, and TO-DO. That way I am always reminded of what I am (or should be) working on that day.
Email is killing me.
I get 150+ messages per day and although I aspire to a clean inbox, it's almost impossible unless I work 11-12 hours per day.
It flows in continuously but high tide is in the late morning.
Some emails are pure distraction. Others are potential leads and quite valuable. Some are urgent. Some are completely irrelevant.
But they are all mixed together, so it requires constant attention.
Here are a few email management tips, I've learned the hard way.
I'm literally wearing an arm brace right now because I have a sore tendon in my right thumb.
This is that (Road to Damascus) moment. I need to escape from this for an actual, physical health reason.
Ever heard of De Quervain's Tenosynovitis? Neither had I until a month ago. Very painful. Such are the risks of blogging and email. Oh, this modern world!
Photo credit: De Quervain's Tenosynovitis diagram: AidMyCTS: De Quervain's Tenosynovitis. Inflamed sheath's Extensor pollicis brevis, Abductor pollicis longus, Extensor retinaculum. MendMeShop TM ©2011
Social media and the amount of information at our fingertips has made us all a bit more distracted. You get distracted by a tweet or email, and the next thing you know you’re knee-deep in Reddit, Pinterest, Medium or YouTube with only a hazy recollection of what you were doing before you went down the rabbit hole.
People can be a big distractor as well, especially if you love interacting with them. Phone calls, emails, Hangouts and Facebook messages all eat up time that you could have spent completing projects and can easily get out of hand if you let it.
As an editor, I commiserate with other journalists and editors by getting too many spammy pitches and follow-up messages. These serve to clog my inbox and slow down both my progress and my patience.
I usually build an outline of my day, including a rough schedule and a list of goals and/or the most important tasks.
Prioritising is important; I can write a to-do list for the day that’s easily more than 50 items long. Though it’s good to be busy, adding too
I also try to break up tasks into short chunks of time and try to ignore notifications when I’m in the middle of editing or completing a project.
That helps me get through the task so I can move on to other things. Quiet time is important as well (though it doesn’t have to be silent). Don’t feel bad about telling someone to give you a few minutes (or an hour) to reply, if it’s not urgent.
Belle Beth Cooper is co-founder at Hello Code. She writes on Buffer, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur.
I'm my own worst enemy (when it comes to distractions), so it's really whatever I'm most interested in at the time.
I go through phases of different interests. Right now I'm reading a book every 3-4 days, so I spend a lot of my time reading. I also spend a lot of time planning and daydreaming when I'm in the mood for procrastination.
I use a weekly to-do list, rather than a daily one. Because I work from home and set my own hours, I enjoy the flexibility of deciding what to work on each day, depending on how I feel.
A weekly to-do list suits this approach
Author Ben Hardy has written some of the best tip-based blogs on productivity I've ever read. He's currently studying for a
(On distractions) Mental fog. Just not being mentally-awake. When that's the case, everything is a distraction and I can't be present with anything. I'm either on or off. The root of the problem is always internal. So focusing on externals (e.g., social media) is misled.
(On distraction-fighting habits) Writing my goals in my journal daily. Prayer and meditation. Daily intensive exercise. Fasting from food and water 1-2 times per month. I also have stopped reading articles or watching videos online without intention. If I'm specifically interested in researching something, listening to a particular song, or watching something, I will. If not, I don't even get on the Internet.
(On that formative experience) I served a two-year mission for my church. It was during that time that I realised how short and important life is. There’s no time to waste. And who we are and become has huge implications.
Carrie is an author, digital PR, consultant, speaker, and blogger. She moderates monthly Twitter chat #PRprochat.
Like many of us who work in digital marketing, social media is the #1 distraction. Like a lemon meringue pie sitting beside your elbow with the smell wafting into your unsuspecting nostrils until you just can’t take it
I also struggle with typical home office issues, such as family interruptions.
To keep social media manageable, I’ve learned to carefully manage notifications, so that they don’t pull me in if it isn’t important, and the amount of time that I spend.
I’ve created a mental timer and if I find myself pulled into something personally entertaining instead of work-related, I give myself five minutes before that mental slap on the head. If it’s work-related but not productive or immediately relevant, I copy the link and schedule it as an Outlook appointment reminder for after hours. This helps me not lose important educational articles, but manage it in my off-hours.
(On that formative experience) I wrote a book last year, titled Above the Noise with sales launching in late January. It taught me some truly valuable lessons. I had to carefully balance time building my platform online before the book launch with writing time, and both of those couldn’t infringe too heavily
Cyrus is one of the best SEOs in the world. Ex-Moz, he now runs Fazillion.
By far the biggest distraction in my life is my phone.
Not the apps on my phone. Not social media or email or the news. Simply, my phone in all its entirety. My phone has 1001 ways to distract me, all of them mostly useless in the larger picture of life.
To reduce phone distractions, I've started charging it away from my bedroom overnight, and leaving it at home when I go on walks or out to dinner. Strangely, the biggest benefit has been a restored sense of calm.
I think it's telling that a lot of popular fiction these days focuses on apocalyptic scenarios where the survivors inevitably live much simpler (though rougher) lives without technology. I suspect deep inside of us is a yearning to return to that sort of lifestyle, at least in some way.
Dan runs a shared learning space for creative communications professionals. Speaker, trainer conference facilitator, and public sector comms expert.
While we were based in Birmingham for the first 18 months of comms2point0-fulltime I was based on my dining table. This blurring of the work-life balance was hard. No-one got it. Not my children, not my wife, and not my in-laws. "Peg the washing out if you get a chance," my wife would say leaving for work. Eight hours later it would remain unpegged.
(On steps to combat distraction) In a word: "space". I'm based at co-working space Impact Hub in Birmingham. Which means I can get things
(On his Road to Damascus moment) I quickly knew space was the answer. But as a new
Strategist and keynote speaker David Meerman Scott is the author and co-author of ten books. Three – including the New Rules of Marketing and PR – are international bestsellers.
But I do not have enough time is just an excuse for inaction.
According to Nielsen, the average American spends 158 hours each month watching television(!!). That's 1,896 hours per year. Damn.
Except for when I exercise, I stopped watching TV. In that time (about 15 years) I have written 10 books. It's your choice.
Doug is co-founder of B2B content marketing agency Velocity Partners. Raised in New Jersey, he loves Lagavulin.
The open plan office is probably the biggest productivity killer ever invented. It’s fun to be all together but it slaughters my ability to focus and get things done.
Also: email. Email is the plague of modern work. My inbox is a disaster. A scrolling stack of guilt and shame.
(On practical steps to beat distractions) Working from home is great. When I really need to focus and get stuff done, nothing beats a day in the home office. Break for snacks. Choose my own music. Maybe sneak in a cheeky nap...When in the Velocity office, headphones.
I’m still waiting for my Road to Damascus moment. I think I must be on the road to Paramus.
I followed the Getting Things Done system for about six months but fell back into my bad habits. My to-do list laughs at me. I am a human bottleneck. Pray for me.
Eric is the founder of Stone Temple Consulting, speaker, blogger, and one of the world's leading experts on SEO. His guide – the Art of SEO – is widely considered one of the best books on SEO ever.
It's the way we live today, to be honest. You've got desk phones, Smartphones, texting, social media sites, email, and, of course, people who can simply walk into your office at any time, more or less.
So I don't see is as any one thing, unless you want to call the above the "hyper-connected lifestyle".
(On beating distractions) It comes down to having a sense of discipline. If you want to accomplish major things, you have to be able to shut everything out. Close your door, shut down the phones, ignore the email, and then focus on what you need to get done.
(On Road to Damascus moments) There have been many along the way. One critical experience I had was the entire time I spent working at Phoenix Technologies, which was 10 years in duration. While there, I had the opportunity to work with many amazing people. One of those was Ron Fisher, who taught me a lot about how to be a senior business person.
The lessons were
Farzana Baduel is the founder and managing director of Curzon PR, a global strategic communications firm with offices in London, New York, Dubai, and Delhi.
Disorganised people who are incoherent in their thinking are often the biggest distractions and time-suckers in my life.
Due to their disorganisation, they tend to have reactive approaches instead of planned approaches and therefore are often firefighting from one chaotic episode to another distracting everyone else in their path.
I tend to try to avoid disorganised people. I avoid hiring them for a start by ensuring applicants successfully pass
When I get involved in a project, I analyse the people I will be dealing with and try to assess the true cost of getting involved which includes the extra time and energy that disorganised people can drain from you.
There is a true cost to when dealing with disorganised people, be it staff, suppliers or clients.
We launched a SaaS business last March 2015 has over 600 customers all over the world and growing. We’re a team of six (and wanting to stay small) who have never built a product business before.
Providing support online to all these people, testing new features, deciding what to build next, marketing – and basically trying to work out what a founder of a SaaS business should be doing…could all be a recipe for too much work distraction.
(On practical steps to beat distraction) I switched my working week to take every Wednesday off to hang out with my two young boys (three and one).
I’m much happier and the combination of time to switch off and the constraint of time had a huge impact to where I focus my attention. Rather than steaming ahead I have a natural break point midway to reflect.
With less time to work, you tend to get to the point in your working week.
We set up our team to work in a two-week sprint cycle.
We meet up fortnightly to demo what we’ve been working on & what we’ve learnt. We then do retrospective exercises to tease out ways we can work better together and improve the business. In between that we have daily 10-minute meetings (together, in Slack or via video calls) to share progress, learnings, and blockers.
The combination of this predictable routine and trust between the team allows for freedom and autonomy for the rest of the time.
We all work from where it feels right for us. Depending on the type of work we’re doing. So working remotely (Stella was in New York last week while Alan was building new features in Berlin) is encouraged.
Flexible working, idea sessions in the countryside, working from the office, a mountain, a café or at home is all good. We’ll always be checking in every two weeks.
I’ve had many influences along the way. The book “Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: Why Intelligence Increases When You Think Less”
Moving from agency life to running a SaaS naturally leads you to follow the lessons learnt from those who have done this successfully already. So I’m a big fan of the team at Basecamp and their books “Getting Real” and “Remote”.
Gini is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a digital marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR.
(On time-suckers) Oh man! Email, the phone, text messages, Slack, social media…those are all of the things I HAVE to turn off if I want to get anything done.
Just this morning, in fact, I turned my email to “offline mode” and worked through my inbox.
(On practical steps/habits) I stopped going to social media during the day. That was a big one for me.I also turn email off periodically throughout the day and that helps.
But the big thing I began to do a little more than a year ago is I turn off all distractions for chunks of time during the day and work on big projects that require me to really think. That helps immensely and, as it turns out, no one dies because I don’t respond in less than two seconds.
(On that Road to Damascus moment) I had a pretty big life change that required me to work less than 24/7.
What happens when you work all the time is you allow the distractions because you know you can always do the work later.
When you no longer have the ability to work like that, it’s amazing how much you can get accomplished in even less time.
For me, the biggest time suck is email.
I receive around 100 messages every day from readers, writers and entrepreneurs who are seeking collaboration and advice, and it can get incredibly taxing trying to stay on top of them all.
In general, I don't respond in depth as often as I'd like, but it's just not possible to do that while maintaining the other aspects of my life. When I try, it gets out of hand and I find myself drowning in emails from all and sundry!
Lately, I've been looking at setting aside half an hour every morning and half an hour every night to just focus on getting emails out of the way and managing my communication.
The rule of thumb I'm trying to stick to is that if an email doesn't get handled during one of those sessions, it's not a high enough priority for me, and it means that I subconsciously don't want to respond to it – so I won't.
The emails in this category are normally abusive, criticisms, requests for free work etc.
Kelvin is the founder and managing director of Rough Agenda, the company behind BrightonSEO (the UK's leading Search conference).
Busy work is my biggest distraction.
I'll find myself researching something that's neither important nor urgent, like keynote speakers for two events time or which t-shirt people reckon is the best for getting branded up.
These sort of things feel like, they're for work but aren't anywhere near the top of my to-do list when I find myself doing them.
I've tried to be strong with myself and give all my tasks specific deadlines, so I'm doing them by order of importance rather than what I feel like doing.
I find changing my environment the single easiest way to deliver an increase in productivity. If I’ve been working from home I’ll go to the office, sometimes even an hour in a coffee shop or pub is worth three of four hours at my desk.
It's very hard to say no to good ideas, but I've learned the hard way focus delivers better results.
In 2014 we did 13 different conferences; in 2015 we did three. We made more money, more profit and delivered better events in 2015. That really gave me the kick up the behind to realise sometimes doing less and having more head-space is the way to achieve more.
Mike is an SEO expert, who writes amazingly well-researched instructional blog posts.
(On biggest distractions) I would highlight two basic aspects:
— Other people with their problems and requests. This can be phone calls, emails, SMS, a friend who just came around, or employees that ask for help or just want to talk about personal life. And voilà, it’s the end of another working day, and I haven’t done almost anything. I love helping people, and I rarely refuse to help. I guess this is the goal of my life, but I still haven’t learned how to manage it.
— TV series. When my mind is overloaded for some reason, I start watching TV series (instead of doing sports). They suffocate me. I’m a type of a person that always needs to finish what has been started. If I start reading a book I won’t cut short, I’ll read the book up to its last page. The same thing with the TV series. I want to watch the whole season at once. Meanwhile, hours, days, and weeks of my life silently disappear.
(On practical steps/habits) To be maximally concentrated I travel. As for me, it is the best way to be focussed on achieving your goals. You rarely get distracted by other people, you walk a lot, and your mind relaxes looking at beautiful sights. There’s only you and your work! In addition to this, I also set the objectives for the week in Trello, and I also monitor my time using Toggl. I dream to add sport into my life, but for some reason, I’ve always succeeded in doing only one thing. I can’t combine different spheres. It is my strength and my weakness altogether. It helps in work, but your life is not only your job.
(On that Road to Damascus moment) 1.5-2 years ago. For more than 16 years I’ve been doing different businesses, marketing, and SEO. Some time ago money was my goal, but lately, I’ve got unbelievably tired of just creating sites and promoting them for money.
I wasn’t developing, I wasn’t getting smarter, I just got stuck. I was thinking a lot about what actually makes me happy. And then I realised that I’m the happiest man on Earth when I help someone, when I share my knowledge and expertise. I decided to cut all the cords, I sold my business, and almost finished all my previous projects to focus on the new goal. On sharing my expertise.
That time I created my Twitter account and started to read experts in different spheres. I was astonished by the fact that even the most successful people share their expertise and give advice. 1.5 years ago I realised that I wanted to become a blogger. When I was conducting the research for my first post about five experts for more than two months, I saw the writing on the wall very clearly: this is really my cup of tea! I love writing. When I published my post and got positive feedback, I understood that I like reading positive comments too 🙂
Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello
I've always been a firm believer that the biggest distractions are distractions of the mind. Having a weak emotional or mental state can really take you away from peak productivity. I like to minimise distractions by surrounding myself with family and like-minded individuals. I also am a firm believer in having a strict schedule. Your habits can make or break you – so choose them wisely ;).
(On practical habits to combat distractions) I like to wake up early and do pretty much the same thing every day. I typically wake up around 5am and work a bit, followed by breakfast, a workout, and more work throughout the day. Having that schedule minimises uncertainty in my day which really helps me stay
(On that Road to Damascus moment) I was spending too much time having fun and enjoying myself at a point in my mid-20s. At that time I decided to scale back and focus only on business – and the rest is history :).
Paul is the founder of HERE/FORTH. He writes on technology for Forbes and others, and puts out an excellent weekly newsletter.
(On biggest distractions) Notifications. They are rarely useful or necessary so I turn them all off or have a short list of apps that can send minimally interrupting notifications, although this gets shorter rather than longer.
(On practical steps/habits) I turn my phone off more and more which helps 100%. If that's not possible or I forget I simply put my phone into flight mode.
(Was there a Road to Damascus moment?) Not really – I just realised how much time I was losing to seeing the screen light up and the pings go off. No-one wants to be the dogs in the Pavlov scenario.
Paul is an independent digital marketing and social media consultant. He blogs,
To get things done when I started out in marketing communications we talked to people on the phone and, heaven forbid, sat down face-to-face. As a result, trips to the pub were commonplace and afternoons spent boozing were not unheard of. Ah yes, the good old days. But I digress.
If you wanted to cover your arse, you had to go to great lengths to do so. But as dial up gave way to broadband and email usage became more mainstream, the psychology of the working environment changed. People started to use the humble CC button to needlessly copy the world and his wife into their messages, and the volume of email increased exponentially.
Today, probably 90 per cent of the business email we receive is pointless – people copying numerous others in for little other reason than to cover their arse. Reading email is such a waste of time and money. If I had my way, I’d get rid of the CC button and I’d ban email groups. I’d make people think about who actually needs to see every single email they send.
And that’s what I try and do. I try and take responsibility for the email I send. Others might want to try Slack; a tool that’s getting some serious kudos in a bid to try and wipe this out. And I recently read about SaneBox, an email management tool that claims to help productivity.
Rachel is the head of All Things IC. She write, speaks, and advises on internal communication.
Social media is like a set of Russian dolls, you never know what you’ll uncover and where it will lead. I get drawn into the detail when researching a topic that interests me, so a frequent distraction is the pull to keep on reading.
(On practical distraction-beating steps) Setting alarms on my Apple Watch to nudge me to the next task, and using lists. Prioritising and planning my time is essential to ensure everything gets done. I also build in time to think, read and mind-map, as some of my best work happens when I’m in that creative mindset.
(On that Road to Damascus moment) No lightbulb moment, just an iterative process formed during 17 years of working as I know my best times of day to think. Being mum to three young children means my night owl tendencies are even stronger, and does my multi-tasking skills the world of good!
PR people should be interested in news and there are a myriad of ways for news to reach you and interrupt the flow of work. They are not only difficult to avoid they can consume significant time.
I measure my productivity and outputs in many different ways. Using task management software and analysing what's you do on a day to day basis provides immediate feedback and an added incentive for keeping on track.
No, there was no shining light moment for me. It's like most things these days I'm in permanent beta mode, measuring and optimising as I go along.
Ryan runs Blogging from Paradise. From his hammock.
The biggest time suck
(On taking practical steps to beat distraction) Meditating daily for 10 minutes and breathing deeply during my five-minute, hourly breaks keep me in the moment, present, and focussed. Distractions are not DOING problems, they are BEING problems.
No, I'm not a Buddhist monk. But I do regularly detach to be present, to be in the Now, as in the Now there are no distractions. You don't let anything distract you because you're not the impulse or thought. You're the watcher of the distraction-based feeling.
(On that Road to Damascus moment) I went on an eBook-writing blitz in 2015 where I wrote and self-published one bite-sized eBook daily for three months straight. Imagine writing a 6,000 word blog post for 90 days straight.
Then imagine formatting the post to make it Kindle-ready. I couldn't have done this unless I was present and relaxed and in the moment, oblivious to distractions and all the temptations that plagued me in the past.
Sarah Pinch is MD of Pinch Point Communications, and immediate past President of the CIPR.
I am pretty
But I am led astray by incoming emails, researching something on the Internet and falling into what one of my friends calls "the Google black hole of click, click, click", and posting on social media only to then fall into that black hole too.
(On distraction-beating habits) I don’t have my personal email account on my office computer – that has helped enormously. I unplug from certain social networking sites – and have none of them on the office desktop.
I now allocate slots of "research" and sometimes I start that session purposefully with the freedom to allow myself time to explore – I have found some brilliant insights into women in business recently, from allowing my "click, click" to be more intuitive than prescriptive.
When I am at work, I am at work. When I am not, I am not. It’s such a simple thing to say, but it’s not always easy to put into practice, I am getting much better at it.
(On that Road to Damascus moment) I have a well-founded reputation for being very organised, I can fit a lot into my day. But, last summer I realised I had much more to get through, with my appointment on the board at the HSE, presidency of the CIPR and my agency – so I took a whole month off from social media.
It was a revelation. I had SO much more time and energy – so I do it often now. And I do not have all outlets on all my devices.
Scott Guthrie is digital director, influencer relations at Ketchum London. He writes an excellent blog here.
Know your rhythm and know the rhythm of those around you. I’m at my most creative first thing in the morning. To squeeze as much as I can out of that time I plough through the admin the evening before. It’s then I answer email and plan my day ahead.
If I’m writing an article or book chapter I’ll prepare my notes and sketch the outline. I’ll think on it overnight and get a first draft out as soon as I can in the morning. I try not to check email or social media until I’ve roughed out my first draft.
Of course, you have to fit in with those around you. I have a five-year-old daughter. When she hears me get up in the morning she hunts me out to tell me stories and have a cuddle. This daddy-daughter time is so precious to me but it kills any notion of completing work. So, recently I’ve started going to the office hyper early. Writing there before starting my work and then looking forward to reading my daughter a story in the evening.
I try to keep the first three hours of the day meeting-free. I use that protected time to plough through the work which needs the most creative thinking.
When I lived in Sydney, I'd cycle to Centennial Park. I would rough out what I planned to write before I set off. The journey took me 25 minutes. That was usually enough time to stick some flesh on the bones of the story in my mind.
When I arrived at the park I'd cycle to my spot. A table under a tree by the lake. There was no WiFi and poor phone reception there so I knew I'd be distraction-free. I'd whip out my laptop. Plough through a first draft. Then leave it. Listen to the squawk of the cockatoos while watching over the lake for 10 minutes.
Then read my copy again. The 10 minutes were usually just enough time for a mental excursion.
To consider what I was writing with a fresh pair of eyes, I'd read through again then think about the piece on my 25-minute cycle home.
Stephen is a speaker, author, enabler, and influential blogger. His day job is partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum. He is the only person I know who rivals Neil Patel's prodigious output. You can find his blog here.
Email and social media are rabbit holes. However good your intention you’ll be carted off to an obscure corner of the Internet and end up losing an hour of your life.
We start and end our day on our mobile phones, and they are rarely more than a metre from our reach throughout the day. They’ve become our leashes to the Internet and intrude into every aspect of our lives. I'm working hard to put mine down.
(On practical steps) I log off the
I respond to my email in bursts.
And I work hard to limit my time on social media. I’m trying to shift my workflow away from continuously grazing email and social media, so I use the phone more, I check links on Feedly and Nuzzel once a day, and communities to manage projects.
Beyond that, a plain old daily to-do list goes a long way to help focus priorities and optimise personal productivity.
Stuart is an independent modernised international PR adviser and trainer.
Multiple interests and overlapping professional and personal lives mean that I’m never really ‘off’. The biggest distraction is when you work for yourself at home, you don’t have anyone to force or chivvy you into doing what you should be doing so you do important or urgent things you want to, rather than the ones you should do.
(On practical distraction-beating steps) I use Outlook,
I also use Zapier and IFTTT to automate some
Distractions and time-suckers are the
I am connected to so many on multiple platforms, and consider responsiveness an intrinsic part of my personal brand.
It used to be just f2f time and the phone, then it expanded to email and text, and now add to that the myriad of social platforms and multiple handles on many of them.
OMG...staying focussed has become the primary name of the game, so distractions are everywhere 24/7, even turning off can now be considered a distraction.
(On practical steps to beat distraction) Now more than ever I do my very best to reply to a question, deliver requested content, and/or simply respond as soon as I receive the outreach or request.
I very often set it aside, but now, whenever possible, address immediately. In addition, since the use of software and apps, like Evernote, do not come naturally to me, I have developed many of my own personal productivity hacks over the years.
I direct everything of importance to my email where it is easier for me to track. I leave any email I have not completed a task for unopened until the task is complete.
Whenever someone wants me to do something for them, or meet, I insist they send me a meeting invite with all relevant info so it hits my calendar. When a thought comes to mind and it is something I find eye-opening, relevant in some way, or something new, I post to Twitter and save in my Favorites so I can easily find it later. I save all original content Tweets in Favorites so I can easily access anytime. There are more but we would need a few more paragraphs to cover.
(On that Road to Damascus moment/formative experience) I had a mentor during my twenties, the father of a childhood friend, who deeply imprinted in my DNA the importance of relationships, and that "the only way to have a friend was to be one" (true credit for that quote goes to Ralph Waldo Emerson).
In order to accomplish a lifetime of relationship building, and earn incredibly valuable Return on Relationship, ROR, #RonR, you quickly realise the need to stay focused and not leave things undone. There most certainly is...#NoLetUp!
There are some corkers here. I count 64 bits of practical advice and hundreds of revelatory insights.
I am indebted to each and every one of these busy people for giving into distraction to contribute to this blog post.
But if I had to pick seven. Seven magnificent nuggets of advice from the experts that have helped me increase my focus. I'd choose these.
I've spent five months researching this post. Inspired by Cal Newport's Deep
Aside from asking the experts, I've devoured every book on the subject of getting meaningful work done, tried and tested lots of new ways or working, spoken to loads of people about the subject, and read hundreds of blog posts.
This has led to an extremely long gestation period for this how-to-get-meaningful-stuff-done-quickly post, the irony of which is not lost on me.
If you've made it this far (8,000 words) you deserve a medal (or at least a bonus or two) so here are the five best books and 10 best blog posts on the topic. I'll then finish off by telling you what I've done with all this information. Have I put it to good use?
I hope this post has inspired you.
Showed the importance of battling
And provided a few expert tips/hacks on how to get there.
Because if you don't have the ability to do deep work you'll never achieve your dreams, or fulfil your potential.
Don't worry, you can do this around your day job, or use it to make your day job that much more productive. And no-one's expecting you to do concentrated work for 10 hours a day (Cal Newport estimates most of us are capable of between one and four hours daily, and it takes a lot of training to get to this point).
Apps and tools help focus; sure they do.
But it's the daily routines, adding up, one day after another, 365 days a year, that really count.
Habits. Here are mine:
Do you agree with this post? Is deep work necessary? Is technology hijacking your mind, and turning you into a virtual paper-shuffler.
Two options: sit there moaning or do something about it.
I have. And I'm never looking back...
How do you do your deep work? Join the conversation and chip in with a comment below. I'd love to hear from you.
My name's David. My wife's called Rachel, and I have two young children; Zak and Jude. My passion is marathoning and I support Liverpool Football Club. I like deep work: it helps me