Author: Car Newport
Published in: 2016
One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you'll achieve extraordinary results.
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there's a better way.
In Deep Work, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four "rules," for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.
A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, Deep Work takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories -- from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air -- and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. Deep Work is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.
In our ever distracted world of social media and email, the ability to do ‘deep work’, meaning perform difficult tasks with a with uninterrupted focus for long stretches of time, is becoming increasingly compromised. Part social commentary, part instruction manual, storytelling and candid advice are used to motivate his readers to get the most out of their workday by changing their habits. Newport warns his readers of the professional cost of not having the systems in place to have a strong work ethic.
Takeaway #1: Multi-Tasking Does Not Make You More Productive
Contrary to what you might think and have probably been led to believe, multi-tasking in order to get more done actually makes you less productive. This is because when you switch from task 1 to task 2, whilst your body might be able to switch seamlessly, your brain is still focused on the first task you were doing. You might think of multi-tasking as cooking dinner whilst helping the kids with their homework, but it also comes in the form of checking your email and responding to the pings on your phone when writing that report.
Takeaway #2: 4 Ways of Getting Deep Work Done
- The monastic approach: Eliminating all sources of distraction; working in isolation.
- The biomodal approach: Setting clearly defined work time boundaries I.e. the 9-5.
- The rhythmic approach: Getting into the habit of doing deep work for 60 or 90mins.
- The journalistic approach: Using unexpected free time in your day for deep work.
Whichever method you use, it must be made into a habit as the difference between 'deep work' and simply 'being in the zone' is that deep work is scheduled, it's intentional whilst being 'in the zone' usually only comes after hours/days/weeks of procrastination and time-wasting.
Takeaway #3: Rewiring Your Brain for Focus
Technology has changed our lives so much in recent years, making it much easier to get certain things done but also bringing many more distractions as we forever refresh the social media feeds and responding to the pings and beeps of emails and messages, scared that we're going to miss out on something and that we must respond instantly.
There's a way to rewire your brain so that it can focus and that's through productive meditation. This doesn't mean sitting in a room silently contemplating the meaning of life, it means making use of 'unbusy times' when your phone is not in your hand to problem solve without distraction – This could be when you're commuting to work, walking the dog, or taking a shower. Consider the problem, come up with some solutions, weight them up, decide on one and then figure out what you need to do to accomplish that goal.
Takeaway #4: The Work / Life Balance Must Be Scheduled
How many things in your personal life do you keep meaning to do but don't get around to because you're too busy or too tired? The solution to a happy and healthy work/life balance is to schedule everything in using 30 or 60 minute blocks, not just for work and the chores at home but for your hobbies and social life too. This makes you more mindful of how you spend your time so that you don't waste 5 nights a week watching mindless TV, checking work emails at home, or losing time by scrolling through social media posts on your phone when you could be reading a book, working on a hobby, or having a proper conversation with friends and family without other things going on around you. You might even go so far as to turning your phone off for an hour or two to ensure you can focus on your weekend and evening 'me time'.