Deep Work by Cal Newport is a book necessary in our hyper-connected, hyper-informed world. It is ideal for anyone who feels they are on top of things, yet not quite getting the important things done, or at least to their satisfaction. Deep Work can be defined as activities undertaken in a state of distraction free concentration. It is intended to be a state where your mental capacity is focussed to its utmost. The result is higher performance, improved skill, and creation of new value and meaning.
“Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It is a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.”
Newport talks about deep work as being a rare, high value skill which will be more sought after professionally and in general. He establishes four rules or strategies for Deep Work performance.
1. Work Deeply. Acknowledging that different work strategies work for different people, we can use one of four approaches to work deeply. We can completely shut ourselves off. We can set a long block of deep work time, or we can set a rhythm of deep work blocks (such as the Pomodoro method). We can seize free time to turn in to deep work time.
2. Embrace boredom. What do you do when you have nothing to do? Check Facebook? Read the news? These are low value distractions that we need to take a break from. Use free time to focus on productivity, self improvement, and “sharpening the axe” to use a Stephen Covey term.
3. Quit Social Media. What? This is difficult to do, especially if you work in digital marketing! Understand why you use social media, why you consume it, how often and does it create productive value. If it is in the way, schedule it or drop it.
4. Drain the Shallows. Shallows are occasions of shallow work as opposed to deep work. Shallow work is work that requires little concentration, could be automated or scheduled into a dedicated block of time. If you are using the Pomodoro method for example, these are the short break tasks. It is low value work, and can be managed with strict scheduling rules.
It is a challenging book in what it can reveal in the reader, at least for me. The management of distraction and shallow work is on of the most important skills in our workplace or business in these times. The framework and strategies of Deep Work make it an important resource for anyone aiming to increase achievement, performance, and self-satisfaction.