Whether you work in an office, a shared co-working space, or at home, your time is one of your most valuable commodities — but also one of the easiest to misuse. According to one survey, 80% of us waste time at work. But the antidote to distraction is “deep work,” a phrase coined by author and Georgetown University professor Cal Newport.
Newport calls deep work a rare and valuable skill: “the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life,” he says, “will thrive.” Because being constantly connected and interrupted has “fragmented most knowledge workers’ attention into slivers,” those who re-train their brains to work deeply will accomplish much more than their peers who can only struggle along in what Newport calls “distracted dashes.”
“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, excerpted from Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Ready to supercharge your workday? Set yourself up for success with tools that will help you engage in deep work and make the most of your time.
Manage your environment
Studies have shown that ambient noise can boost productivity and creativity. Noisli, a free web and mobile app, lets you create your own mix of ambient noise, with options like white noise, rain, wind, waves, a crackling fire, or other nature sounds. Or turn on Noisli’s ready-made “Productivity” soundtrack to quickly start up some focus-friendly background noise and tune out distractions.
Take back control of your inbox
Whether you’re an “inbox zero” advocate or keep a full queue of messages, you’re likely spending more time on email than you think. By one estimate, the average worker spends 30% of their workweek just managing email — that’s about 11 hours!
To make things worse, many of us have the bad habit of constantly checking email, which keeps us from engaging in uninterrupted deep work sessions. Email management tools like Boomerang (compatible with Gmail, Outlook, and mobile clients) can help by “snoozing” your incoming messages when you need undisturbed work time or scheduling emails to send later so you can get all your messaging done at once.
Optimize your on-screen workflow
Modern workers use many apps and tools to do their work, and toggling back and forth can take up a surprising amount of your day. Every time you self-interrupt — by task-switching, for instance — it can take nearly 25 minutes to refocus. And the average knowledge worker makes 250 switches between applications during one workday and more than 100 between different windows within the same app, according to research from workforce productivity expert Dr. Gloria Mark.
All this activity — and the communications, files, and project documentation that come with it — can build up into an overwhelming digital pile, not to mention a lot of lost time. The developer who created Freeter was struggling with this issue, finding himself constantly disorganized and distracted by task-switching. He developed the app as a solution, a central hub to gather everything you need for work—tasks, files, links, checklists, and more—all in one place, no switching necessary. You can even connect web and messaging apps, funnel in tasks from project management platforms, and create process dashboards to speed up your workflow. Freeter is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Track your time & work habits
Awareness is half the battle when it comes to learning to use your time more effectively. That’s why Crossover created WorkSmart, a workforce productivity platform that helps individuals and teams see how they’re spending their time and pinpoints positive work habits or areas for improvement. Every team member at Crossover uses WorkSmart to stay on track with their goals and see how much productive, deep work time they achieve each day.