Deep Work: How to Train Your Brain to Focus

A brunette woman looking at her laptop, with furrowed eyebrows and her face in her hands

How many times a day do you check your phone? According to research, it could be close to 100 times a day or even more. These small distractions all impact your ability to concentrate and get stuff done during the day.

If you’re looking to improve your focus and boost your productivity, try deep work. Here’s how it works.

Intro to Deep Work

‘Deep work’ is an idea coined by Cal Newport, an author and professor at Georgetown University. Newport’s concept of deep work revolves around the ability to concentrate on difficult tasks without getting distracted.

Deep work is the opposite of ‘shallow work’ which is characterised by tasks that take very little concentration or effort, like checking your emails or browsing websites. Shallow work doesn’t create anything of value and is usually a distraction.

Unlike shallow work, deep work is focussed on “cognitive depth” and when mastered, it can increase your productivity, job satisfaction and maybe even make you happier! Deep work gives you the feeling that you’re doing something worthwhile with your time.

How to improve your focus

Deep work takes time to master. It’s a skill that you need to practice to get better at it. Here are 5 steps to train your brain.

Plan your working day

Structure is really important for improving focus and allowing you to do deep work. Schedule your deep work sessions in your diary and make a clear plan for what you will be working on during that time.

Make sure you add time limits so you know when to start and stop, helping you to focus during a set time period.

Set a routine for deep work

Routines help you make deep work a habit. One routine that can be useful is scheduling your deep work sessions consistently at the same time every day, every week.

You might also like to go to a specific space to do your deep work like a library or co-working office.

Distraction-proof your space

This is a really important part of deep work. If you want to train your brain to focus, you need to remove all distractions.

That includes muting notifications, blocking out time on your calendar so colleagues don’t try to contact you, deleting disruptive apps and tools, and ideally leaving your phone outside your work space.

Take deep breaks

Breaks are really important for your brain to help you regroup before starting deep work again. Deep work requires extreme focus so breaks are your chance to take a breather and refresh.

Give yourself roughly 10-15 minutes and plan them into your day so you stick to them. Give yourself something small and non-stressful to do like completing a small chore, journaling or reading a book.

Make a shutdown ritual

In order to master your work/life balance, it’s really important to create a ritual to end your day. This allows you to fully switch off your work and have maximum productivity the next day.

Your ritual needs to be long enough that you can work out which tasks to prioritise the following day and so that you’re able to disengage properly and relax into your free time.

Could deep work help you focus better?

Deep work is a skill that allows you to focus and master complex tasks and take on new information. As it takes time to develop, it’s a good idea to start small and scale up.

Over time, it could help you find the focus you need to finally reach your goals, whether that’s progressing in your career, writing a novel or completing that course you’ve been talking about! Get ready to deep dive into your brain!

**At Free Soul, your wellbeing is our priority, and although we pride ourselves on our expertise in women's health and wellbeing, it is important to acknowledge the individuality of each person. Features published by Free Soul are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, or replace the advice of your GP. We always recommend consulting with a healthcare provider if you encounter any health concerns, and we’ll always be here to support you so you’re never alone on your journey.