From Distraction to Deep Work: Rewiring Your Brain for Success
From Distraction to Deep Work: Rewiring Your Brain for Success

From Distraction to Deep Work: Rewiring Your Brain for Success

07/11/2023 by Daniel Sanche
Deep dive into the deep work principles that will transform your focus and work.

One of the things that initially attracted me to Arkus is the way productivity is engrained in our culture. The ability to thrive within systems and structure was clearly important to be successful at Arkus, and this excited me as someone who thinks better with structure. I joined the team in February 2023 and dove into a rigorous learning process all new members of the Arkus team move through. This onboarding process includes reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) and receiving training in the GTD system of organizing commitments and managing work.

I was also given a list of additional book recommendations. Deep Work jumped off that list as one book that would complement GTD and help me be even more productive. I didn’t know much about it aside from what intuitively came to mind from hearing the title and term in early conversations with other Arkies. I must say as soon as I read the introduction, I was hooked and I knew this book was a winner.

In today's fast-paced world, one filled with constant distractions, maintaining focus and productivity can be a significant challenge. As a working professional in a technology-driven environment, I find the principles of deep work discussed in Cal Newport's book, "Deep Work" to be very compelling. Through my own experiences and reflections, I have discovered practical strategies to overcome distractions and foster a habit of deep work. In this blog post, I will share key insights from the book and provide actionable tips for implementing deep work habits in a tech-heavy world.

Section 1: The Philosophy of Deep Work

Deep work is defined in Newport's book as “Professional Activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

Over time deep work builds on itself to make you more productive, such that you will get more work done in less time while in a state of deep work compared to before. While the book discusses four deep work philosophies, two are particularly relevant for modern working professionals: the Rhythmic and Bi-modal Philosophies.

First, the rhythmic approach to work involves establishing a consistent and structured routine for accomplishing tasks. It emphasizes setting regular work schedules, creating dedicated blocks of time for deep, focused work, and adhering to a predictable rhythm or pattern of work. This approach recognizes the importance of establishing habits and rituals to cultivate productivity and concentration over time.

Second, the bi-modal approach to work recognizes that deep, concentrated work requires sustained periods of uninterrupted focus. In a bi-modal work style, individuals intentionally create distinct periods of intense focus and deep work, separated by periods of rest, relaxation, or other non-demanding activities. This approach acknowledges the limited capacity for prolonged concentration and aims to optimize productivity by alternating between periods of deep work and restorative breaks.

These philosophies emphasize the importance of building a habit of deep work daily, which aligns well with the needs of professionals working in technology-driven industries. While Cal Newport acknowledges we all have our cognitive limits - we need breaks, he argues this type of deliberate practice allows us to push those limits and unlock higher levels of skill like a mental workout. The more we practice deep work on a regular basis, the better we can think deeply and focus intently, even in the face of distractions. 

Section 2: Detox from Distractions

In our connected world, distractions are abundant. From email and Slack notifications to social media platforms — detoxing from these distractions is crucial if one hopes to reclaim their focus. However, it's important to recognize that simply removing or restricting access to certain apps is not enough and doesn’t work in the long term. Building focus requires mental strength and intentionally deciding to resist the urge to give in to distractions. Success in deep work comes from actively choosing to resist distractions, having a plan, and focusing on the tasks at hand when you are doing them. Setting up a structure and recognizing when you are being pulled away from deep work are key steps to success.

Section 3: Embrace Boredom

Constantly filling every moment with stimuli, such as music, social media, or news, hampers our long-term brain health and ability to focus. To retrain our brains for deep work, we must be willing to embrace boredom. Treating the addiction to constant stimulation requires scheduling dedicated time for deep work and pushing through the initial withdrawal symptoms. By building the habit of deep work, we can gradually overcome the need for constant distractions. Simple examples include doing chores in silence, leaving your phone outside the bathroom, and finishing your morning routine before checking your phone.

Section 4: The Power of Tracking

Tracking our deep work hours visually can provide a sense of progress, consistency, and motivation. Aim for at least one hour per day of dedicated deep work without any distractions. By clearly defining the work to be done within that hour, it becomes easier to focus and estimate the time needed to complete tasks. Start with one hour and gradually increase the duration as you become accustomed to the practice. I track this on paper as another sheet just gets lost. I also use an app called Flow that displays a full-screen timer on your phone and can collect stats on sessions completed. You are able to set the time but it holds you accountable for that session.

Section 5: Define Your Work

To enhance the effectiveness of deep work, it's crucial to define your work clearly. This reduces the chances of procrastination and enables better planning. If there are open questions or uncertainties, ask or message the relevant parties and continue working on other tasks in the meantime. Make it a priority to define your work, allowing for a smoother workflow and less time wasted overall. Defining work ahead of time helps reduce stress and anxiety, ensuring you have a plan and foundation for success before diving into deep work sessions.

Section 6: Delayed Gratification versus Instant Gratification

When engaging in deep work, it's common to encounter the need for outside input. Rather than breaking deep work to seek immediate answers, challenge yourself to commit to a set period of time, even if it's as short as five minutes. This exercise builds mental resilience and trains your brain to delay gratification.

Embracing this practice helps you maximize productivity while still allowing time for necessary collaboration. Additionally, it's important to remember that sometimes fixating on a single missing piece of information may not be the most productive use of time. Developing the habit of thinking deeply before seeking help can lead to valuable insights and more informed contributions. I like to track key open items or tasks somewhere I won't forget, though it depends on the scenario. Some tools I use are OmniFocus for capturing ideas I will review later and scheduling recurring reminders, and really my trusted system from GTD. I also use project documents for more details, Google tasks, and occasionally Slack to schedule reminders for myself. Sometimes the act of writing out notes and/or steps helps me think about the problem differently and unlock answers.


In conclusion, deep work is a transformative approach that can significantly enhance focus, productivity, and overall work performance. Implementing deep work habits in a tech-heavy world requires a conscious effort to eliminate distractions, embrace boredom, and commit to focusing. By following the philosophies discussed, tracking progress, and incorporating practical tips, professionals can rewire their brains for greater effectiveness and success in their careers. Remember, deep work is not an overnight achievement but a continuous journey of self-discipline and intentional focus.

  1. Read "Deep Work" by Cal Newport. It’s a quick read but very thought-provoking and inspiring. The above post barely scratches the surface of the book.

  2. I highly recommend "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. This book provides further insights into recognizing and breaking bad habits while building new ones. It is a great companion to Deep Work in my opinion.

  3. Check out the CEO of Arkus, Jason Atwood’s video around handling distractions: Lunch and Learn: Living in a Distraction-Free World — Arkus, Inc. 

Have you read "Deep Work" and if so, how do you practice deep work? Feel free to connect with me and share your thoughts on LinkedIn.

Would you like to learn about how Arkus supports teams with deep work and digital transformations? Reach out to our team of consultants and experts here.