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'Deep work' and how it can be effective for PR professionals



Working for a set amount a time with no distractions from emails, texts, or colleague interactions – seems near on impossible, right? Particularly in agency life which is just about as fast-paced as you can get. Well, that’s what ‘deep work’ asks you to do. And it’s something I’ve bene trialling over the past few weeks – all within a fast-paced agency!

 

So here I wanted to share some of my experiences with it and how I believe other PRs and marketers can use the concept to become a hell of a lot more productive.

 

First, let me quickly outline the concept of deep work. I came across it a few months back listening to one of my favourite work-related podcasts, Eat Sleep Work Repeat – check it out if you’ve not already. Cal Newport, who coined the phrase, defines it 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.”

 

You can’t argue with that. However, this basically means avoiding the torrent of tech which is making us busier, yet less productive, than we ever have been! Think switching off your emails, Slacks, text messages and notifications for a set period each day.

 

Of course, there will be some jobs that the concept simply doesn’t work for, but for marketing and PR pros specifically, who spend much of their days pulling together strategic documents, plans to break into new markets, and writing high level pieces, deep work should – and can – be striven for.

 

Both my professional and personal lives have been overhauled as I’ve learnt to discipline myself and implement this, so here are a few tips I can give, based on my experience of trying it out:

  

#1 – Choose your environment carefully – sounds simple, but deep work needs to be done in the place you work best and for a lot of people, that might not necessarily be the office. Whether it’s in a co-working space, your local coffee shop, back bedroom, or your office, you need to be in a place you feel most productive and where you’re likely to have as few distractions possible. Next, set the best conditions in that environment; some people need total silence, whereas others need a little music. I find house music (with no words) does the trick, but I know classical music works for a lot of people, too.

 

#2 - Disconnect – turn your phone, email, Slack, social media – the lot – off. And tell your colleagues that you’re going to be unavailable for the next two or three hours. It might feel weird at first but once you’ve done it a couple of times your colleagues will get used to it and appreciate it as something that falls into your standard working routine.

 

#3 – Go – get that deep work done, and don’t be tempted to check your phone or email even once! My perfect time for deep work tends to be anything from 1 to 3 hours but some people can do it for much longer.

 

#4 – Set an intention – once you’ve done it and figured out if it works for you, set an intention for deep work in the future. You might decide to do it every day, once a week, once a month, or simply when you have a big project on that requires a lot of headspace. I personally try and do at least two hours twice a week – subject to how many meetings I have on that week!

 

Deep work won’t be for everyone, but for me it’s helped to give me clarity, focus and headspace to get big jobs done. It’s not easy for always-on PR pros and marketers – especially those working in an agency – but I reckon most people who try it will benefit enough to make it a regular thing. 

 

If you’ve read this blog and tried out deep work, I’d love for you to share your experiences with me on Twitter @ljmoore. 

 

Tagged with: PR, PR agencies Manchester, PR Agency Manchester

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