How to Be Productive at Work – Deep Work in a Distracting World


How to be productive at work when your whole work day is fragmented by countless, unpredicted and unpredictable interruptions?

At the end of a busy day, you realize that you have been constantly moving and doing, but you haven’t actually achieved too much.

In this age where complexity is ever increasing, deep work should be the norm. And that because understanding a complex world requires a great deal of focused work.


Let your mind be a lens, thanks to the converging rays of attention.


– Antonin-Dalmace Sertillanges


But how to stay focused at work and be productive when the work environment is chock-full of distractions? How many of us are capable of setting up that kind of work environment where distractions can be easily avoided? An environment where deep work can happen?

Not too many.

Some because we can’t, and some because we don’t know how to do it.


Deep Work – Focused Work

But let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is deep work? And what is it’s opposite: shallow work?

Deep Work (or Focused 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.

Shallow Work (or Non-Focused, Mindless Work): Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted.

These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

The above definitions were taken from Cal Newport’s book: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Apparently, we need to do more deep work due to the increasing complexity of our world, but instead we seem to be doing more shallow work.

And that because we are constantly bombarded with an enormous quantity of stimuli. (How many times have you been interrupted since you started reading this article?)

Staying focused at work is energy consuming, and it pushes us to stretch our mental power beyond the usual to accomplish something of value.

But, the paradox is, shallow work is more energy consuming. This is due to the constant switch between activities. To add to this, there is also the frustration of having worked a lot but not having accomplished much at the end of the day.

It sounds like a good recipe for increased stress and burn-out.


How to Be Productive at Work

Common sense works best. But you’ll say it doesn’t, because you’ve already tried it. For how long? Half an hour? Maybe you need a little more discipline.

Of course you can’t say “Talk to me later.” to your boss or to an urgent problem. But you can always start with small steps: turn off notifications (all of them), no multitasking, prioritise your to-do list, take care of what is important first (you can sweat the small stuff afterwards), etc.

And when that becomes routine and you start seeing the benefits, you will become more creative with your answers to the big question: How to stay focused at work? Your work productivity will increase as a consequence of the increase in focused work time.


What about you? What is your secret answer to how to be productive at work?

Being productive at work and staying focused is becoming increasingly difficult nowadays. We would like to know how you manage to do it. And with what efforts? Are the benefits worth the efforts?

Let us know what is your experience.

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