4 Rules to Produce Deep Work

Recently I just finish the book Deep Work by Prof. Cal Newport. The book talks about the insight of Deep Work and his personal application.

For myself, I am aware that I was not producing high enough quality of work in the past few months. While I am testing ways to improve this, the book gives me some recalls to my daily routine.

Looking back

I was recalling that early this year, I have been doing very well. I accomplished a lot of tasks. I have done more than the past year in 3 months. Every day, I was able to read books, worked throughout the day, and produced the daily video on macOS application development. I wrote some blog posts, and got some tractions over time. My subscriber list keeps growing even nowadays. I wanted to get back to that productivity.

Laying out the routine again

Hence, I tried to rethink again what are the most important things I want to do every day, and came up with several rules. I have been practicing this for couple weeks, and the result is terrific. Here are my rules.

Rule #1: Remove distractions

Distractions are in many forms. The common distractions nowadays include TV, Social Media, Email, Causal Chat, Meetings, etc. By removing distractions, I mean to keep them away in specific period of time.

For me, I will not touch any electronic device between 10pm and 10am. This means I will leave my iPhone in the living room without using it. It is set in “DND” mode, so all the notifications will not reach me. I am also not bringing this into bed room. I stopped working in this period as well, as I am not using the computer.

In this period, I can spend my time with my family, or just sit in silence. It is a good way to restore my energy, after the whole day of brain work.

Rule #2: Do the most important things in the morning and at the night

First Things First is the suggestion given by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. I also prioritize the most important tasks in the morning.

I generally wake up at 7a.m. Since I am not using iPhone until 10a.m., I have several hours of extra time for other tasks. I usually start with meditation, reading books, and writing practice. After that, I would take care of my 1-year old son, by going out for a walk. By the time I come back home, it is about 10a.m. In the lucky days, my son already slept, so I can start planning out my work day right away.

At night, I reserve some time before sleep as well. I will leave my phone at 10p.m., and have one extra hour for tidy up and reading. The morning and night routine combined with me give me a refresh every day, with new knowledge coming in constantly.

Rule #3: Use the Internet only in spare time

Many people underestimate the time they lost in Social Media or TV. In order to focus on Deep Work, I will only use spare time to interact with the Internet.

I have Pomodoro practice, which is working for 25 minutes without distraction, followed by 5-minute break. I have a goal to run 12 pomodoros every day, equivalent to 6 hours of work. I only allow myself to look at the phone in those breaks. When I am focusing on the work, I would turn the phone upside down, close the browsers. Since I am programmer, which takes time to research on the Internet. I try to only surf the Internet during break time as well.

Rule # 4: List out the life goals

After removing all the distractions, goals are the driving force to move forward. One should set motivated goals in order to keep up the work.

For instance, one of my life goals is to become knowledgeable person in Business and Psychology. I build up this interest after running startups and reading books for several years. Thus, I set a goal of reading 1000 books. It doesn’t need a time limit. I am willing to spend 20 years to accomplish this. In fact, this is the goal that drives me to read books every morning and night. By setting up the goals, you will know how obvious it is to prioritize the daily task and give up the low-valued distractions.

About the Author
Harry Ng is the COO of StaySorted.com. Sorted is a task scheduling app with powerful gestures and beautiful UI.

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