Deep Focus

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Updated March 23, 2023

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Maintaining a strong sense of focus is central to deep, knowledge-based tasks. Working from home can invite many distractions, especially if you don’t have clear delineation around your workspace, routine, and when you’re available to friends, roommates, or family.

Fadeke Adegbuyi of Doist created a fantastic summary of Cal Newport’s Deep Work, which we can’t recommend more enthusiastically for remote workers. If there’s one takeaway from her guide to deep work, it would be to schedule your day methodically. Without the structure of an office, your own schedule (which should be reflected in your calendar!) is what makes or breaks your ability to get deep, focused work done.

Other key aspects for deep work are maintaining self-discipline and having strong boundaries. As a remote worker you will be more successful at supporting deep focus if you:

  • Set definite expectations with both yourself and your friends and family. For some people, being around family and being able to interact at various times of the day is a big part of why they work remotely. For other people, this may be too disruptive, or it may vary over time. As long as everyone has the same expectations, you’ll avoid more frustration and unwelcome distractions.

  • Create self-enforced stopping points. Ideally, stopping around the same time each day helps you to avoid your work life bleeding over into your home time.

  • Set boundaries around your working life. Ensure everyone knows when they can and can’t interact with you.

  • Limit distractions. When doing deep, focused work, turn off notifications and anything else that might pull you out of your work or tempt you to check social media or the like. (In Deep Work, Newport goes so far as to encourage you to avoid social media entirely outside work as well, but this may not be possible or reasonable for everyone.)

Further Reading on Deep Focus and Self-Discipline

Time Management

The individuals who worked at home successfully were found to be highly self-motivated and self-disciplined and to have skills which provided them with bargaining power. Employees demonstrated self-discipline by tending to work in a very strict routine; they worked in the same place every day and tended to have relatively structured hours.Margrethe H. Olson, researcher, “Remote Office Work: Changing Work Patterns in Space and Time”*

A good routine is an important habit to develop as a remote worker. The benefits of managing your time properly include:

  • Your employer and peers understand when you will be available.

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