‘Deep Work’ is a mindset and working routine popularised by author Cal Newport. If you’ve never heard of it, the tag line for his book offers a brilliantly concise description:
“Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”
And, boy, do we live in a distracted world. Every few minutes, we’re reminded of our smartphone’s existence. Notifications, new emails, text messages from friends and reminders to install the latest version of Candy Crush Saga pepper our lives and make the process of getting things done incredibly difficult.
If you’re a writer, you’ll know how challenging this can be, because in order to get a serious number of well-written words onto a page (digital or otherwise), you need to concentrate solely on what you’re doing.
Newport’s theory for deep work is that it will enable you to get stuff done in a fraction of the time and to a much higher standard than you would if distractions remain untamed.
Here’s how you could apply the deep work mindset to the writing process for your next book:
We’ll take a wild guess that you make room in your diary each day to eat, sleep and spend time with loved ones. But, do you do the same for your writing?
That might sound like a daft question to ask a writer, but if you’re honest with yourself, there’s a good chance you only invest in the craft when time allows.
Instead, try scheduling time on your calendar to write. Make note of an exact period during which your only task is to write - nothing else.
In order to work deeply on something, you need to rid your world of every single distraction. That means no email, smartphone, background hum of the radio or - we’re sorry to say - other people.
It might turn you into a bit of a miserable so-and-so for a while, but the sooner you adopt a zero-tolerance policy for distractions, the sooner it’ll become the norm to work singularly on something. And the happier you’ll become!
If your current writing desk is full of bits of paper, gadgets and Post-It notes that bear no relation to the project you’re working on, it’s time for a spring clean.
Rid your desk of everything that doesn’t relate to your new book. Put gadgets in a drawer or different room, file stuff away that you might need later and be brutal with the rest; chuck it away.
The cleaner your working space, the easier you’ll find the process of deep work. Again - it’s about removing distractions and allowing yourself to be inspired.
If you’re finding it tough to work deeply at home, it might be worth upping sticks for a short period and investing in a writing retreat.
If you have a quiet summer home somewhere - great, but if your budget doesn’t quite stretch that far, you could instead book a nice cottage for a long weekend or stay at a friend’s house while they’re on holiday.
A writing retreat doesn’t have to be fancy or Love Actually romantic - it just needs to be quiet and different enough to inspire the deep worker within you. Three days spent at a different location will most likely supercharge your output.
Have we inspired you to spend time developing a deep work mindset?
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