21 August 2020

Tech Perspective #15: Deep Work and How to Stay Focused

  • Problems with concentration 
  • Shallow vs. deep work 
  • Solutions supporting deep work 
Have you ever found yourself mindlessly scrolling your Facebook wall, struggling to get back to your tasks? Or ineffectively trying to finish your work after getting distracted by some minor inconvenience?   You’re not the only one. According to Udemy’s survey, nearly 70 percent of employees admit they feel distracted when they’re on the job.    Meetings, pings, e-mails, notifications… The constant flow of distractions and easily replicable tasks doesn’t make it any easier.    The majority of time is spent on shallow work, while deep work should be the priority.   

Shallow Work vs. Deep Work 

Terms shallow and deep work were coined by Cal Newport and described in his 2016 bestseller, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World According to Newport, shallow work can be defined as “non-cognitive, logistical or minor duties performed in a state of distraction”. They don’t require huge cognitive effort and can be performed automatically. At the same time, they are not very fulfilling and satisfying and usually don’t contribute towards important objectives. Nevertheless, these responsibilities can’t be neglected.  However, shallow work distracts us from our most important tasks. While it’s impossible to get rid of this aspect of work entirely, it’s crucial to be mindful of how much time is dedicated to it.  That brings us to the clue of this article; deep work. Deep work or deep focus is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. As its originator explains, deep work equals “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limits”.   Deep work is more valuable because it praises quality over quantity. Results of deep work are well thought-through and effective, as well as highly beneficial for your business.  

How to Support Deep Work  

While it’s impossible to completely get rid of all the distracting e-mails, notifications, and calls, some solutions can promote and support the idea of deep work among employees. 

1. Digital Wellbeing

First of all, it’s advisable to take care of their digital wellbeing. Introducing digital wellbeing apps, helping the employees to reduce the number of distractions, may be a great idea. These apps allow their users to reduce the number of stimuli, set the daily limit with app and site timer, or snooze notifications. If you want to explore the topic of digital wellbeing, make sure to check out one of my previous articles.  

2. Motivation

One of the common reasons for losing one’s focus is a lack of motivation. Deep work requires a lot of effort and can be cognitively exhausting, that’s why it’s crucial to keep motivation and morale high. It’s advisable to invest in employee-motivation platforms or apps, such as Grow Uperion. These solutions support employees’ hard work and motivate them to excel in their tasks.   

3. Minimising Distractions 

To minimise the number of repetitive tasks it may be a good idea to automate some processes and ensure intuitive solutions. Depending on the industry, it may mean reducing manual distractions by e.g. introducing automated processes or cutting the flow of messages by investing in chatbots or digital assistants. 

Deep Work: A Game-Changer 

To excel, your employees need to focus on both shallow and deep work, with the latter being more challenging but also more rewarding. Even though it’s impossible to operate in a completely distraction-free environment, there are some ways of supporting deep work and increasing focus. With the right tools and solutions, deep work can be a true gamechanger for your business. 

Read more stories on tech and business on our blog

Marcin Bartoszuk
Chief Operating Officer

With Microsoft technologies related since 2005. He graduated from the Computer Science Faculty of the Bialystok University of Technology where he was the leader of the .NET Group and the Microsoft Student Partner. Four times finalist of the national stage of the Imagine Cup competition, and later the mentor and the jury member of the contest. Co-founder of the Bialystok .NET Group. He lectured .NET development at the Bialystok University of Technology. Microsoft MVP in the Client Application Development category in 2008-2010, when he actively participated in the IT community. Constant new technology enthusiast and IT consultant.