What's your deep work/hyperfocus time look like?

What's your deep work/hyperfocus time look like?

I recently finished reading Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey, and this was easily my favorite productivity book I’ve ever read to this point. I’ve been thinking about how I do deep work quite a bit lately as a result.

Here’s how I’m handling deep work as a routine:

  1. Headphones are on, usually playing Tycho’s Awake (Deluxe Version)
  2. I’ve decided what I’m going to focus on, whether it be coding, writing, or whatever deep work focus task I need to do.
  3. I work until I get the task done or find myself getting tired. At that point I need to take a scatterfocus break to let my mind recharge.

Location honestly isn’t a big factor for me. I can enter a deep state of focus pretty easily. Taking time to recharge is usually where I fall down!

With that said, how are you handling deep work?

@jmichelt, @Yaakov, what do each of you do?

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I just can’t seem to find focus at my workplace. I have to leave and remove myself from the office. if I’m out of the office, I rely on my wife to take over. She’s competent and will call me only if it is something that needs to be done now. If it is an action that can wait for later, she’s very good at filtering out for me. It’s great to have a work partner. We can cover for each other/

I am lucky enough to have a coffee shop and library nearby that I can escape to. If I am needed back on site, I can return in 5 minutes.

I do have some music on an old iPod touch but it’s old familiar music that I can use. I can’t listen to new music because I’ll want to be able to savor and focus on the lyrics. If it’s familiar music that I’ve played to death, I’ll be able to use it as a security blanket. It’s familiar and it’s comfortable.

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A week ago, the BBC broadcast a drama portraying the struggle between the Leave and Remain campaigners before the UK’s “Brexit” referendum vote two years ago. The drama focused on the chief Leave campaigner, an eccentric if highly intelligent individual played by Benedict Cumberbatch. He was shown moving with his team into a suite of new offices for the campaign. He took the “corner office” - but he was also depicted ferreting out a tiny store-room where, unknown to his team, he locked the door, did not install a landline or wifi and clearly did most of his “deep-thinking” work (which also involved lying on the floor between the shelves, and writing on the walls).

It was a portrayal of an extreme case, but it rang bells with me. It accorded with my experience of some people with whom I’ve worked, when we’ve had to plan and write long-form documents. I’ve never had any problem doing this in a busy environment, by closing my mind to what is going on around me. But clearly and understandably, some do benefit when “deep-working” by shutting themselves away from distractions and interruptions, particularly from 'phone calls. In one workplace, a man I remember kitted out an entire secret office for himself in a hideaway in a remote part of our building - an entire office without a landline or wifi (though no writing on the walls).

Perhaps employers should cater for such needs. Not everybody always works best with constant exposure to distraction and communication, especially in contemporary “cube-farms”. (The former journalist Lucy Kellaway when she wrote for the Financial Times of London also covered this issue frequently.)


Cube farms are great when there’s constant teamwork that needs to be done (like the IT support desk I used to help run). But I remember going to the corporate office (where said cube farm lives), and by my estimations I was able to get 60% of the work done or less in a day compared to working remotely. Keep in mind I was a manager and not a technician, and the techs did far more collaborating together than they did with me.

Distraction is a problem, but only when output is the sole focus. Being permanently locked away (a la being a remote worker) ups productivity but can decrease satisfaction because of the lack of in person human interaction.

Relationships are far more important than output in the grand scheme of things, but that being said, I agree employers should give people options to find ways to disconnect and get work done when it matters day to day.

I am blocking time on my calendar, putting a do not disturb sign on my office door, and utilizing Focus@will for at least an hour until my mind starts wondering.

I do better outside of the office, but unfortunately thats not always an option.

I think this is a key I’ve missed in my routine. When my mind starts to wander, I don’t stop – I try to push through. Or I pick up my phone for a couple minutes and then start working again.

@justindirose I force myself to stay committed at least 25 mins. tbh. my mind typically wonders after about 30 seconds. I have terrible ADHD which I am finally at a point where I am able to manage it effectively (with the use of meds, therapy, an executive coach, etc.) I have been able to use meditation as a way to help improve my focus (and journaling to clear my mind.)

So, I am not perfect - but I find if i use blocking time it is very helpful. Also, minimizing distractions.

That’s really great you know yourself and know what it takes to stay focused.

I think we need more people talking about not being perfect :slight_smile: Gotta find what works, but it’s a huge journey.