Some books you read, and then forget. Others change a small part of your life. Then there are the rare gems that fundamentally change the way you think, live, and work. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport is one of the latter. As the world advances, three kinds of people will survive and prosper:
Owners of capital or people with access to it
Those who can work with intelligent machines and technology
Superstars in their field of work
Deep Work focuses on the third type. To become one, you need to develop two skills: the ability to quickly master hard things and the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. Deep Work is the concept that interlinks these two skills. Hard things are complex and you need to give them all of your attention and focus. The batching of hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches is key to high productivity.
The new law of productivity is: High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)
So why aren’t we all performing Deep Work? “Deep work is hard and shallow work is easier and in the absence of clear goals for your job, the visible busyness that surrounds shallow work becomes self-preserving.”
Our goal is to systematically develop your personal ability to go deep – and by doing so, reap great rewards. Each task on your list can be divided into two main categories: deep work and shallow work.
|DEEP WORK||SHALLOW WORK|
|Cal Newport defines deep work as:|
“Professional activities performed in astate of distraction-free concentration that
push your cognitive capabilities to theirlimit. These efforts create new value, improve
your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
|On the other spectrum, we have shallow work:|
“Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-styletasks, often performed while distracted. These
efforts tend not to create much new valuein the world and are easy to replicate.”
These are the rituals of the modern workplace, such as meetings, emails, and reports. While they are hard to escape, you should make a conscious effort to diminish the time spent on them in order to maximize the time you have for deep work activities.
The world is a distracting place and we are more distracted than ever. We constantly engage most of our time on shallow work activities, thus reducing our capacity to perform deep work. As a result, this ability is becoming increasingly rare and increasingly valuable in our economy. Only the few who cultivate this skill and make it the core of their working life will Thrive. Deep Work is about working smarter, not harder. It is the superpower of the 21st century. In order to make this guide easier to follow, I’ve broken it down into 5 simple steps:
- Choose Your Deep Work Philosophy
- Make Deep Work a Habit
- Execute Like a Business
- Remove Distractions
- Use Downtime to Enhance Deep Work Efforts
Let’s get started!
In an environment and culture that makes Deep Work difficult, we have to add smart routines and rituals to our working life. Design them to minimize the amount of our limited willpower necessary in transitions and maintain unbroken Concentration. There are four philosophies to integrate Deep Work into your life on a sustained basis:
maximize Deep Work by minimizing or removing shallow obligations. Isolate yourself for long periods of time without distractions; no shallow work allowed
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 The easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. The rhythmic philosophy 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
Alternate your day between deep and shallow work as it fits your blocks of time. Not recommended to try out first. Decide on your philosophy and start designing your work accordingly. Only you know what works best for you. A strategy that may work for one person can be a failure for another. After choosing your work philosophy, you must ruthlessly commit to scheduling Deep Work blocks into your calendar and sticking to them. Scheduling in advance takes away the need to use willpower.
“The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.”
To make the most out of each session, build rituals and routines to minimize friction in your transition to depth: Where: identify a location used only for depth, such as a conference room or a quiet library. How Long: set a specific time frame for each Deep Work session. Always have an end time rather than keeping it open-ended How: your ritual needs rules and processes to keep your efforts structured. Should you ban the internet during Deep Work sessions? Are there metrics like pages, words, etc. that you can use to measure your work productivity? Support: to maximize success, you need to support your efforts to go deep. For example, a cup of good coffee, or make sure you have access to enough food of the right type to maintain energy.