On Writing

Deep Work

I was surfing the Internet (which I spend far too much time doing) and I was looking up articles like “mental fatigue” and “brain fog”, just seeing if there were methods that people use to combat this feeling of just being mentally tired all the time.

And I found an article about 10 Things Brain Fog Might Be Telling You. (Tells you how much brain fog I have that I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read the article to get through all ten items.) But one thing jumped out at me. The author talked about the concept of Deep Work.

I’d never heard of this before, and thought it sounded interesting, so I did some research on that. This is based on a book called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. The author talks about how crucial the ability to concentrate in a focused manner for periods of time is going to be in a world of constant distraction.

The author focuses on the idea that when you are constantly interrupted, you’re doing very shallow work that ultimately does not make you further along in progress toward your important goals. It also actually has real detrimental effects on your ability to focus in the future. You’re actually hurting your ability to do focused work by the constant bombardment of distraction. Anxiety is higher–almost a constant thrum of anxiety goes on because of your inability to get away from distractions.

I have noticed this happening to me a LOT as of the last year or two. I feel like I flit from thing to thing–check an email, go look at Facebook, run back and check Twitter, look at some video on YouTube. Never ends.

I hardly read books anymore. I can’t focus. My writing comes much harder to get into and work on because I’m so pulled by other things. I rarely ever feel completely relaxed.

I had to shake my head today about how perfect this idea was for where I am right now. I had driven a different way to work today and I passed by a school bus stop. Five teenagers standing in a loose line, waiting for the bus. All of them on their cell phones.

I think it’s pretty much permeated everywhere. Even before this, I was thinking that I really needed a social media fast. I’d been far too into following political stuff on Twitter (which is a cesspool of epic proportions, let me tell you!), and I felt like Facebook had just become one big long advertisement. And yet I still would be distracted by them, constantly checking them–like a little rat in the laboratory, looking for some sort of good post or someone liking something I’d commented on or whatever. It’s designed to be addictive. It’s designed to keep you distracted, anxious and unhappy.

There have to be better ways of looking at and dealing with the world.

I may end up buying the book, but I think I want to try to follow the principles behind it. Carve out time in my schedule to do “deep work”. If I could get even 2-3 sessions of an hour a piece during the week, I think I’d be so much further along in the things I wanted to do.

I’m feeling more and more convicted that I need to pare back, concentrate, and put my focus into what is valuable and good. Not what is distracting and valueless.

The weekend comes up soon. I am going to try to find some places to put in some sessions of deep work. I think I need this discipline in my life.

How about you?


  • Dana

    I deleted Facebook off of my phone the other day, and I am sooooooo much happier and more productive. And I am not even a Facebook person to begin with! It was amazing the difference it made. I now log in to the Seeing Synchronicity page on y PC, post the morning’s motivation, and log right back off. I come back in the afternoon to post an article, and log right back off. I check Dana Wanders at the same time, very briefly, and that’s it. I can’t recommend that enough.

    I never go to Twitter except when I am traveling and need to tweet Delta, so that’s never been a problem for me. But anything political gives me the heeby-jeebies, so I can imagine the cesspool. I’ve loooooong been sick people trying to shove their political views down other people’s throats (and by looooooong I remember how disgusted I was during the 2000 election and it’s only gotten 239832879328792378932897 billion times worse since then). I don’t invite that into my life.

    Have you tried one of those apps or websites that won’t let you do anything on the internet until you’ve accomplished your goal? NaNo gave Wrimos a free trial of FocusMe last year. I didn’t use it, because once I sit down to write, I am usually pretty good (unless I get sucked into a rabbit hole of research, lol, but that’s a whole different problem), but I did research it and have considered getting it.

    I also have all notifications turned off on my phone when I really need to concentrate, and use the “VIP” setting for emails that I need to have notifications of (which during the day is generally just my work email).

    Good luck getting into Deep Work!

  • Susan

    You are so smart! I need to do that myself. I don’t have the FB app on my phone, but I do just go there through the internet. Bad Susan. 🙂 I do find myself going there less and less. It seems like it’s mainly one big advertisement or a series of jokes now. Not much personal interaction. And I always like the personal interaction.

    I need to scale back on Twitter, especially with the political postings. People are just so negative and angry and screaming at each other all the time. I need to better focus my mind and my heart.

    And some of those “focusme” programs would probably do me some good, especially at work. 🙂

    Thanks for the ideas!!