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How to Stay Focused and Not Get Distracted

While I am writing this blog, a thought pops up: “I must not forget to app my friend Pieter that I’ll be a little later this afternoon for our meeting”. I walk to my phone to app him, but before I do, I check all the ‘fresh’ new app messages that just have arrived. Meanwhile I check my LinkedIn timeline to see how many ‘likes & comments’ I got on the post that I posted yesterday. I check it, but then my eye catches a picture of a colleague’s post, and before I know it, I have clicked on the link to his article. I read the headlines and parts of it…. 30 minutes later… I realized that I actually had the plan to write this blog….

Sounds familiar….?

This is what we call the ‘shiny object syndrome’. The ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ is the ‘poison’ for our productivity (AND health and happiness). It is the ‘dis-ease’ of our lives and society. The better you can deal with ‘shiny objects’, the happier and the more productive you will be.

This week we made a summary of Cal Newport’s book ‘Deep Work’. It describes the opposite or absence of this ‘shiny object syndrome’.

If there is one trait of the happiest and most successful leaders I have worked with or studied over the past 15 years, it is their ability to do ‘deep work’.

I would love you and me to learn the secrets of strengthening our focus and do “Deep Work’ for at least a significant part of our working time.

We all spend more than 8 hours of our days working. Our schedules are often packed with ‘back-to-back’ meetings and we receive 100+ emails a day. Does this bring us the productivity we aim for?

According to Professor Cal Newport we can do better. He introduces the term “Deep work’. Deep work is professional work that requires intense focus and concentration and brings us high quality output and fulfillment.

Deep Work, at its core, is about complete, full, and total concentration.

  • “Deep work” is professional work that requires intense focus and concentration.
  • Deep work is essential for and central to knowledge work and valuable output.
  • It is necessary for mastering complex topics more quickly.
  • How much elite work you produce equals the time you spend on your task multiplied by how intensely you focus.
  • Obstacles and conflicting demands are increasing every day and they hinder deep work.
  • Deep work promotes a sense of flow, meaning and sacredness.
  • Evaluate your habits and actions with the goal of structuring your time to protect the attention you need for deep work.
  • Some people integrate deep work into their lives in daily units.
  • Others withdraw from the world periodically for periods of complete focus.
  • To promote deep work, “embrace boredom,” “quit social media” and “drain the shallows” of your life.


How do I train myself to Deep Work?

1. “Work Deeply”

Make deep work a regular part of your life. Remove distractions and increase your level of focus. Many distractions come from within. Basic desires like food and sex can distract you. Other distractions are social and technological, like the desire to check your email or watch television. Developing a deep work routine helps you maintain your focus.

Once you find an approach that works for you, ritualize your choice to build habits that support

2. “Embrace Boredom”

People in today’s world suffer an addiction to distraction. The focus that deep work requires means that you must escape that addiction. Without distraction, however, you will suffer boredom. When trying to concentrate intensely, you will yearn for something to break the tedium. But if you stop fighting that boredom and recognize it as proof of your focus, you can make focused concentration a “habit,” something you do regularly because it is good for you.

3. “Quit Social Media”

Social media are entertaining, and keep you in touch with people. These benefits are minor compared to what social media cost you. When considering the use of any social media tool, identify which factors create “success and happiness in your professional and personal life.” Use that tool only if it offers more benefits than negatives.

4. “Drain the Shallows”

Shallow work crowds out more valuable deep work. Deep work is exhausting because it pushes you to your limits. Most people have a maximum capacity of four hours of deep work a day. They have to build up to that level. Starting with an hour isn’t uncommon.

“Figure out in advance what you’re going to do with your evenings and weekends before they begin.”

“In a business setting without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment.”

“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy.”

Those who are able to master the ability to focus so completely that they’re able to learn complex material in a short time and contribute exceptional ideas are considered the ELITE. Now more than ever.

I hope that I’ve given you some enlightenment about Deep Work and how to train to make it a habit.

Find the full summary of ‘Deep Work by Cal Newport here:

Let’s stay connected!


PS: Add value to your leadership effectiveness and go full throttle!

Here are some resources to help you grow when you’re ready to go.

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You can use our Leadership Fitness Test to help you determine where you are in terms of leading and managing yourself and others. Do the 10 minutes TopMind Fitness Test here.

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  • Are WE a fit? (Personal ‘FITTING’ session)

Let’s talk about it! Have a 15 minutes private one-on-one ‘Fitting’ session with me. We will personally engage in a conversation that begins with learning more about you, your company, goals, and what you want to work on. Schedule a zoom session with me via this link.