Getting Things Done in a Distracted World and Deep Work

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

My ability to concentrate has been getting destroyed the past decade – deep work is harder than ever.
I do everything right externally: I block social media when I’m working, and I’m working in focused time blocks.
But what about the internal distractions? In the middle of a work session, my mind will feel this “itch.” I wanna check the latest replies to my Twitter, or I wanna do a quick google search on something. These thoughts throw me off when I’m trying to concentrate on my task.
I know this happens to you too. Everyone jokes about being “A.D.D.”, but there’s partial truth in it.
Last year I read a book that opened my mind – Hooked by Nir Eyal. It showed all the ways that apps and products are designed and evolving to get you more addicted. The more time you spend distracted, the more money these billion dollar corporations make.
It’s a losing battle. You have some of the best and the brighest in the world using their talents to get you more addicted to apps.
Know this – our brains suck and were NOT designed for modern living. We’re programmed to hunt animals and survive in nature.
Imagine you’re a caveman from 20,000 years ago. You hear a strange sound and you HAVE to respond to it…your survival could be at stake here. Well the same thing happens when you get a notification online or on your phone. Your brain is designed to seek out dopamine hits.
Thebrain  hasn’t evolved fast enough to handle this A.D.D. world that we live in now.
You’re on this blog because you want more. You want to become more successful and productive. A key to that is taking back our minds, and our ability to do deep work.
You don’t need another app or technique – You need to understand on a fundamental level the importance of Deep Work. This article’s going to talk to you about the importance of deep work, and I’ll show you some techniques I’ve been experimenting with the past few years.
(p.s. the concept of Deep Work has been heavily inspired by the writings of Cal Newport)

Deep vs. Shallow Work

Let’s define what deep and shallow work mean.
It’s when I sit down and work on a blog post.
It’s when a musician works on music.
It’s when a scientist tries to solve a problem.
Deep work are the activities that challenge and push your mental abilities. It requires your full attention, and can leave you drained after a good session.
What’s shallow work then?
The opposite.
They’re tasks that anyone with a minimum amount of training can accomplish.
Examples include answering emails, booking travel, and skyping with people.
Deep work is important because it’s becoming more rare and valuable.
We’re in a society of exponential growth. Robots, automation, and artificial intelligence will replace a lot of the shallow work in society.
Those who can master deep work will be harder to replace. This is become a society of adapt or die. The best skill in life is the ability to new skills, and that requires deep work.
By default,  our brains want to avoid deep work. If there are 6 tasks to do that day, then you’re going to work on the easiest one.
I remember a few months ago I had a few hours to work on my blog. You know what I did with that time? I changed the color of some buttons and added some plugins. The truth is, I was avoiding the deep work that’d matter such as writing content and working on my email funnels.
The biggest relevation about deep work? The more deep work I do, the more free time I have. I can get more done in a 90 minute focused session, than 4 hours of doing shallow work.
This means I can get my work done, and have time to enjoy life. It’s me “waking up” and being fully engaged in everything I do. No more working in the gray zone of life.
We think that busyness = productivity.
I view productivity as allocating our resources (time, money, energy, and focus) towards our highest goals.
We’re in this constant state of input. We’re reading, and absorbing information all the time. Greatness is achieved when you take that information, and create.
Deep Work is Essential to Becoming a Better Affiliate Marketer
On the surface it seems that affiliate marketing is full of shallow work. We have to talk to affiliate managers, network with other affiliates, check our stats, and more.
Here’s how deep work has helped my campaigns
1. Coming up with Angles
2. Writing great landing page copy
3. Figuring out problems. Why is this campaign not making money? Why is this traffic source overbidding today?
4. Strategy. There’s only so far you can go with copy & pasting campaigns from spy tools. You have to sit down and THINK.
I prefer outthinking the competition rather than outworking it. There are plenty of affiliate marketers that work hard, but the ones who sit down and can think are rare.

Why It’s Becoming Harder to Do Deep Work

Imagine you’re eating by yourself, or you’re waiting in line at the bank. What do you do?
You pull out your phone and do your online “round.” You’ll check out Facebook, social media, forums, and some emails. Bored again? Go back for a round 2. You’re in zombie mode.
Here’s the problem: you’re brain’s getting addicted to the dopamine hits.
What we do in our “off time” affects our ability to concentrate when it matters.
As you become more successful, other people will want your time and attention. That means you have to become better at saying no.
Here’s one trick I’ve learned about saying no – keep it vague.
If you give a particular reason for saying no, it gives the other person a chance to counter-argue
Them: Come to our event in Asia
Me: I can’t…I’m too busy with work
Them: You’ll get so much networking done. You can work while you’re traveling here. You’ll make more money
Me: Asia’s too far for me
Them: Just take a sleeping pill. It’ll be fine, we’ll get you a business class ticket so it’ll be easier to sleep.
Me: ohhhh uhh…ok fine.
*ends up wasting a week of my life*
Vs. Keeping it Vague
Them: Come to our event in Asia
Me: Sorry, but I have prior obligations already that I can’t talk about
Them: Oh okay.
I hope by now I’ve convinced you the power of working deep.
The next question is, how do we do this? Everything in life is easier said than done.

Creating a Deep Work Environment

Your environment makes a HUGE impact on your ability to work. Some authors have built out shacks in their backyards just for writing.
Last year I moved to Miami and opened an office. My team has benefited from immediate access to me, but it has come at the cost of me ability to do deep work.
A few weeks ago I did an experiment where I only show up to the office later in the day.
6 am – 8 am: I do my morning routine
8 am – 1 pm: Cave time at my home office. 5 hours of uninterrupted, focused deep work with breaks in between.
1 pm – 6 pm: I’m in the office doing shallow work. I have meetings with my teams, and they can ask me questions.
Productivity has gone up across the board.
When I’m in the “cave,” I’m unreachable. Unless you bang on my Condo’s door, you’re not getting a hold of me.
My phone’s turned off and in another room. If I’m writing then I’ll turn the internet off.
This can be tougher in an “open office” environment when you don’t have doors. Then pull a Zuckerberg and get wired in.  You can put headphones on to let people know not to interrupt you.
“Hey sorry, but when I have my headphones on it means I’m in the middle of an urgent task. I’ll follow up with you in 15 minutes.”

My goal is to get roughly 4 hours of deep work each day.
90 minutes Deep Work
30 minute break
50 minutes Deep Work
10 minutes breaks
50 minutes Deep Work
Don’t be intimited, I’m just sharing with you what I do.
The mind is a muscle that needs to be trained. You’re not going to show up to the gym on day 1 and lift heavy weights. Start small and work your way up.
Start with 10 minutes of deep work, take a break. Increase it week by week.
I’ll probably get asked why I don’t work in 25 minute chunks like typical pomodoros. It doesn’t work for me. The timer goes off when I’m in the middle of deep flow. I get more done in 90 or 50 minute chunks. I start my day off with a 90 minute one because that’s when I have the most willpower.

Social Media Addiction Impacts Your Ability to Focus

Life’s a little more fun checking out instagram models and funny memes. But man are they distracting and a waste of time.
Is Twitter useful? Sure it is. You can make the argument that any social network is useful. But you have to think about…is it worth it?
My goal is simple – help people like you become more successful. What would benefit you more…me tweeting randomly throughout the day or coming out with a free course on affiliate marketing?
I can’t do both, so I’ve stopped Tweeting.
Essentialism is me deciding what is the most important…Deep Work is my ability to get it done.
What about Facebook?

1. I removed the Facebook app from my phone. I only have the messages installed. In the daytime I have social media blocked using self-control.
2. The newsfeed is the most addicting part about Facebook. I used the Chrome Extension “Newsfeed Eradicator “to get rid of it.
3. I have an awesome Facebook page with a lot of followers. I’m using a program called coschedule to batch / systemize my posts.

Now I use Facebook as a messenger and the occasional happy birthdays.
Here’s an experiment…go 30 days without social media and see how it impacts your productivity. You’ll be surprised.
The phone is a huge source of distraction. What I’ve done is set “no phone” zones.

  1. When I’m eating
  2. When I’m waiting around
  3. When I’m in the gym
  4. When I’m in the car

I also removed 90% of the apps on my phone.
Everyone likes to use the phone as a break, I suggestion finding other ways to give yourself a break

  1. 10 minutes meditation
  2. 20-minute power nap
  3. Go outside for a work
  4. Do some stretches
  5. Go for a water break
  6. Put on headphones and listen to music


What’s all all this about?
It ties back into my theme of Essentialism.
What are you trying to achieve in life? Now look at what you’re spending your time and energy on each day.
People will say fitness is a priority, but they’re “too busy” to go to the gym. Everyone has the time, it’s what you choose to prioritize each day that matters.
I’m not coming from a position of being a monk. I’m going through the same battle right now.
But I have bigger goals. I know you do too.
You can’t control your results, but you can control efforts.
I choose to allocate my time, energy, money, and focus towards my highest level goals.
Everyone else in the world is getting their brains destroyed – I’ll be focused and getting shit done.
Ten years from now don’t bitch about the results you didn’t get, if you didn’t put the work in.
No one becomes the best through luck.  


StudyHacks and Deep Work by Cal Newport
Hooked by Nir Eyal
How to Focus in the A.D.D. World by Me
Featured Image by stokkete

You may also like

                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

I Send
My Best Stuff
Through Email

                 I’m obsessed with everything marketing, business, and productivity.

Whenever I come across a knowledge bomb, I’ll share it with you in email? Interested? Sign up below.

You're 1-step away from exclusive content and cheat sheets

By clicking 'Free Instant Access', you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin