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The 7 Essential Rituals for Focused Work | Scott H Young

The 7 Essential Rituals for Focused Work | Scott H Young
Focused work is essential. But getting started is often tough. Here are seven (quick) steps to maximize your concentration.


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Good Rituals for Focused Work

Good Rituals for Focused Work
  • A good ritual should be accessible most of the time you plan to work. If you focus best in a library, but it is closed on weekends when you need it, it is not a good ritual.
  • It should assist with getting into work, not adding steps that turn it into a procrastination tool. _If you first need to meditate for ninety minutes, then drive for two hours to a log cabin before you start working, it is not effective.

Good rituals can be done quickly, on-demand, and help you get into focus. Pairing a consistent routine with focused work can help to direct your mind into a state of productivity. But rituals can also prevent you from moving into focused work and instead become a tool for procrastination.


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Using Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Wearing headphones can block out some of the ambient sounds and create a subtle barrier to being interrupted.

Regular headphones with some sounds playing will also do the trick. But researchers found listening to music with lyrics caused a decline in performance while white noise wasn't found to have the same impact.


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The Distractions We Can Control

For any focused work session, we should prevent the distractions we can control.

  • Allow only a select few emergency channels to go through and interrupt you. Turn off all other notifications on your phone and computer.
  • Ensure your email inbox is closed.
  • Pack your phone away to minimise the impulse to check your phone.
  • Schedule short focused check-in times for essential emails.


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Using A "Do Not Disturb" Sign

The sign needn't be real - signaling to people you're going to do some focused work is enough.

If you have your own room for working, closing a door can serve as a barrier to potential interruptions.


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Plan Exactly What You'll Work On

We often struggle with internal distractions. We get restless, bored, frustrated, or anxious about the task.

The best way to handle these emotions is to plan what exactly you will work on, how you will work on it, and what steps you will follow. Once you have a plan, getting started is easy.


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Creating A Focused Space

Consistently picking the same space for focused work will condition your brain to enter the right state of mind.

You can also pick focused spaces that limit the kind of unfocused work you can do. If you don't need the internet for your task, pick a spot without internet access to boost your focus.


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Keep A Log Of Your Focused Time

Keep a time log of when you do focused work throughout the day. It makes focus more noteworthy than the feeling of being busy all day.

Writing down the starting time of a deep work session sets the intention to work deeply and makes tracking your hours easier.


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Anxiety And Focused Work

Anxiety is a cause of procrastination. You feel your upcoming work will be difficult, so you find a way to distract yourself.

Sometimes your anxiety stems from the standard you expect from yourself. You need to do a practice test, but you don't feel you've mastered the material. You want to write an essay but have no ideas. A good response is to simply lower your standards for now. Be okay with writing a draft you'll throw away just to get the ideas out. A good first step is just to show up, reminding yourself that giving yourself space to focus is more important than an arbitrary standard.


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The new law of productivity

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

Deep work vs. Shallow work

  • Deep work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. Creates value.
  • Shallow work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. Doesn't create value.

4 philosophies to integrate Deep Work into your life

  • Monastic: maximize Deep Work by minimizing or removing shallow obligations. Isolate yourself for long periods of time without distractions; no shallow work allowed
  • Bimodal: divide your time into some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leave the rest open to everything else. Reserve a few consecutive days when you will be working like a monastic. You need at least one day a week
  • Rhythmic: involves creating a routine where you define a specific time period — ideally three to four hours every day — that you can devote to Deep Work
  • Journalistic: alternate your day between deep and shallow work as it fits your blocks of time. Not recommended to try out first.

4 more ideas

The 2 kinds of work :

  • Deep work”: using your skills to create something of value. It takes thought, energy, time and concentration.
  • Shallow work”: all the little administrative and logist...

Cal Newport

Cal Newport

"The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive. "

Cal Newport on time management

  • Don’t schedule distractions. Schedule deep work.
  • Keep a scoreboard for deep work: The point is to shame yourself if you’re not up to snuff.
  • Stop saying “yes” to unimportant stuff;
  • Have a “Deep Work Ritual”: Hiding in a conference room and throwing your phone into an abyss is a good one.
  • Ask your boss how much time they want you spending on deep vs shallow work: If they say “100% shallow”, feel free to ignore everything above.
  • 'Copying' famous routines

    Not everyone consciously crafts their routines to maximize their time. That’s why people are interested in the routines of successful people: we think following the same steps will bring the same r...


    Rituals are repeated behaviors (like routines). However, they’re deeply personal and are imbued with deeper meaning beyond just a sequence of actions. They mark a change, a switch in task or moment of importance.  And it’s those symbolic actions performed at key moments that help us move through the day smoothly.


    A routine is a series of regularly followed actions. There are few things that impact your daily productivity, career trajectory, and overall well-being as much as your routines. What’s important isn’t the exact nature of your routine, but that you have one and stick to it.