How To Be More Focused

Hello and welcome to Success Books Review. I’m Johnny, and I’m here with reviews of the very best in personal and professional development books. As a coach, speaker, trainer and committed lifelong learner it can be difficult to know what to learn, from whom and how to make the most of your learning time. I started up Success Books Review to help you take the guesswork out if which books are worth your investment of time, money and energy, and why?  

So, grab a seat, make yourself comfortable and let’s get started.

This week I will be reviewing… Deep Work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world; by Cal Newport

Why read it? For me, this has been one of the best books. I have come across which deals with overcoming distractions and becoming more focused, and also gives significant weight to the why of becoming more focused.

Why is it important to coaches? One of the biggest issues facing the modern working person is the need for more focus and less distraction. In a 2015 study published in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, based on a study of 2,000 office workers, it was discovered that about 759 working hours per year, per worker, were lost due to distractions. Now, you might think that would be down to things like mobile phones and social media, but in fact the biggest sources of distraction in the workplace, by a. Significant margin turned out to be other workers, especially the chatty ones.

Some of the most innovative companies like Google and Facebook have open plan office structures with the intention of idea sharing and openness, with top executives working in the midst of these areas to be more accessible. Whilst the intentions here are laudable, it seems these ‘benefits’ come at the expense of productivity due to decreased focus.

If you are a business or corporate coach, you are definitely going to want to have the information from Deep Work in your toolbelt. Even if you’re not, deep focus is a key component to being able to create long-term and future success. This is a skill coaches must also master or risk your clients learning and evolving faster than you are.

If you’re not being productive then you won’t thrive. Your genius, creativity, talent or whatever will be worthless if you can’t turn out the results. Whilst the rest of the world is becoming ever more distracted, you will become a rare commodity if you can perform deep work.

What does it teach? Cal Newport says that there are two critical skills we must acquire to thrive in the coming business economy. One is the ability to quickly master new things, the other is to have the ability to produce at an elite level in terms of quality and speed. Both of these things require deep levels of focus and the reality is that jobs which do not require high focus and deep work are the most likely ones to be replaced by advances in technology. Realistically, if a robot with an algorithm can do your job; at some point in the future, your job will no longer exist. When would now be a good time to be preparing for that eventuality?

There are different reasons for doing deep work and also some different ways of achieving it, many or most of them are included in the book. The case is also made very strongly for having proper downtime, away from anything that might pull us back into work mode, so that we can give our brains appropriate rest and be better prepared for actual deep work. We need some time to unplug and disconnect for our brains to operate at high capacity and we need to stop being afraid of boredom. Do we really need to take our mobile phones to the toilet with us, leave them on by our bed at night, some people even sleep with their phones under their pillow!  

If you or your clients could benefit from having more focus and utilising deep focus periods for working, creating, calculating, developing or whatever you might want it for, then you really do need to read this book.

What will I take away? You will take away the big WHY for deep work, as well as fully understanding what it is and how to do it. I would challenge you not to feel inspired to become more focused after reading it. In any kind of coaching for performance, this should be something that gets looked at, in terms of increasing focus, removing distraction and improving productivity. You will also understand that many business environments are not set up for productivity but instead for convenience, speed and accessibility.

How can I apply it? There is a structure to applying deep work within the book which goes along the lines of planning your deep focus time, prioritising it and what it is being used to achieve, being accountable to actually doing it; coaches (that’s where you come in), ritualising it, so it becomes habitual behaviour and quitting the things that distract you and take you away from focus, such as wasting time on social media, responding immediately to non-urgent emails, engaging in office chit chat etc… One of the ways in which this can be done is with pomodoros, timed periods of work and focus. This can be great way to build focus, starting with maybe 20-25 minutes of focused time and building up to one or maybe two hours over time.

For most people, being able to perform 1 or 2 blocks 2 hours of super focused productivity time each day will massively increase their results and success. I’ve seen this happen time and again with clients, especially those who need to create content, designs or products for their business.

How best to use the teachings? Start practising your periods of deep work and build up to at least one hour of deep focus time starting from what you can manage right now. If you’re going to coach others to use this then you should be able to use it yourself and share from a place of authenticity. Whilst this book may be most valuable to our performance consultants, it has great value to anyone who could benefit from being more focused.

Quotes: “If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.”

“Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.”

Available / Recommended format? The book is available in print, audiobook and e-reader format. On Kindle it is on whispersync and can be listened to and read at the same time, although you can not control the speed of the audio, you can turn the pages and the audio will catch up to the page. I actually found this very useful when creating the mind map for the book and also a short talk I recently gave about the problems we have with distraction.

Negatives or downsides? None I can think of. Some may find the content a little dry but it’s super valuable and really worth knowing well.

What else? One of the biggest issues I coach people on is procrastination and how to overcome it. Whilst this book does not directly address procrastination in depth, it is undoubtedly related and important in the area of productivity.

My thoughts? Since reading and studying Deep Work, I have improved my own strategy for having more focused periods of work using the ideas in the book; which I have found especially useful for creating content, talks and videos like this one today. It’s something I plan to get better at and I am actively enjoying the results of increasing my focus and decreasing distraction time.

I can be very guilty of not unplugging myself from technology for any significant periods of time but it is something I am starting to do more and my mind is feeling less cluttered and more prepared for focus time the more I do.

Clients and groups I have presented these ideas to have all fed back better results and have benefited from it. I have no doubt that if they can do it, you can do it.

Next steps? So, over to you… What would you use deep work focus time for? What difference do you think deep work will make to your results?

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If you ever really want to know something, you need to review it. One of the tools I use to help me review is mind maps. They are not a replacement for reading the book but are a great help in looking over key principles, ideas and quotes once you have, without needing to re-read the whole book. If you would like free access to a PDF of my mind map for Deep Work, that I personally use to help me review my learning, just click the link that says GIVE ME THE MIND MAP in the description below and enjoy your learning. We’ll also send notifications when new videos are released, as well as the accompanying mind maps for those books. The only way to get the mind maps is to become a subscriber and we promise to never abuse your trust or your inbox.

Remember, Confucius, says: to know and not to do is to not truly know.

Action is the bridge between what’s in your brain and what you can create in the real world. As you increase your learning potential, you will also be increasing your earning potential.

So, keep on reading, keep on learning and keep on doing.

See you on the next success books review.