Deep Work

Deep Work

Deep Work Book – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World written by the author Call Newport was published in 2016. It aims to teach individuals and organizations how to focus and be alert while working. In today’s world most the people lack focus because they are busy with social media, lack concentration, could not prioritize their work, etc., it is often easier to allow your work life to be dictated by the immediate needs of others than it is to concentrate on high-value tasks that require effort and time. Newport provides a number of ways for readers to improve their work habits and enjoy distraction-free productivity.

Cal Newport is a Ph.D. graduate and he is working at Georgetown University as an assistant professor in the field of Computer Science. Newport is a voracious reader and draws upon the wisdom and experience of many scientists, thinkers, and authors. Their intense concentration allowed for extraordinary work. Although the book is aimed at individuals, its lessons can prove to be extremely beneficial for organizations that want to increase productivity and well-being.

Nowadays it has become very rare to see an individual with the ability of Deep work and it is also becoming more valuable in today’s economy. The individual becomes successful if he cultivates the habit of Deep work in his life.

What is Deep Work?

“All the professional activities that are achieved in a condition of distraction-free concentration that pushes you’re thinking abilities to their maximum limit”. This state of mental strain, which Newport claims is necessary to enhance your abilities, is also called deep work. An inclination to do deep work is the common theme that runs through the most gifted people, regardless of subject matter.

Deep work, while essential, is not the focus of the majority of workers. Network tools such as email, social media, and infotainment are all too common and fragment their attention. Newport refers to a McKinsey 2012 study which found that knowledge workers now spend more than 60% of their workweek online searching and electronic communication. Many authors have explained that the “shift toward the shallow” cannot be reversed. Nicholas Carr, an author of The Shallows, showed that the internet was literally rewiring our brains and causing only superficial understanding.

This shift also generates new openings for those who can resist it. Because deep work is rare, it’s more valuable than ever. The economy of the future will reward those who are top since more tasks will be outsourced and automated. To be the best in anything you need deep work, which is the Superpower in today’s 21st century. Newport explains that he made a commitment to deep work while studying at MIT. He is also conscious of the need to reduce the superficial aspects that make up his existence. “Three-to-four hours per day, five days per week of uninterrupted, carefully directed concentration can produce a lot more valuable output, it turns out.”

Why deep work is so important

This digital age is transforming the market for employment. In the film Race Against the Machine (2011) Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee talk about what they call the “Great Restructuring” that is creating a divide between all jobs. Some jobs can be automated and outsourced easily, while other jobs become more valuable.

Only three types of people can thrive:

  • High-Skilled Workers are those who can use intelligent machines and understand more abstract and data-driven reasoning. The market value for the high skilled workers is increasing tremendously and it will further increase in the upcoming days.
  • The Superstars represent the very best in their respective fields. They include all programmers, marketers, designers, writers, and musicians whose talents have been made widely accessible. They thrive at the top of the market, while others suffer. In a market where everyone wins, there’s a premium to be the best.
  • Owners refer to those who have the capital. “Where else in history can such a small amount of labor be involved in such an enormous amount of value?”

Even if you’re not an owner, you can still thrive (and be part of the first two groups). You will thrive in the new economy if you have two core skills. They have the capacity to learn new tasks quickly and create at a high standard in terms of speed and quality. These abilities are dependent on your ability and willingness to do deep work.

Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology, explained in the 1990s that expert performers are different from average people because they have made a lifetime of effort to improve their performance in a particular field. He explained that deliberate practice cannot be done in isolation from distraction. It requires total concentration.

The formula is simple: High-Quality Work Produced = Time Spent * Intensity of Focus

Quality is at stake when distractions are allowed

Sophie Leroy, a professor of business at the University of Minnesota introduced the effect of “attention residual” in a 2009 paper. This effect has been extensively studied in multitasking contexts. Her problem was that her attention does not follow the task immediately when you switch to task A from task B. Some residue will stay in the same place thinking about the original task. “People who experience attention residue after switching tasks are more likely to perform poorly on that task” Frequent switching is a fatal flaw in job performance. Distraction is a dangerous habit that can lead to poor quality work.

Some people thrive even without depth. This is the case for high-ranking executives in large companies, salespeople, and lobbyists who value connection above all else. They are rare circumstances.

Why is deep work so rare?

Smartphones, instant messaging and social media have made the constant connection (and interruptions) a standard in many companies. Many startups, as well as more established companies, have chosen open-plan offices to promote “serendipity”. Most offices are prone to massive distraction.

It is so valuable that organizations should encourage deep work in order to get the best out of their employees. However, the paradox of it is the reverse is the case. Organizations value serendipitous collaboration and quick communication over deep work. It is difficult to measure the distraction effect “The concept of the minimum resistance” is dominant in the business world. “Easier” lets your inbox dictate how your day goes since there’s no planning or less thinking.

“The Principles of Least Resistance are protected by the metric black hole, and help to create work environments that lessen the immediate discomforts caused by concentration and planning, but at the cost of satisfaction over time, and the creation and distribution of true value”. Busyness can be a proxy for productivity. Many knowledge workers struggle to see the benefits of increased productivity without clear indicators. It is sensible to do lots of stuff in a clear way.

Deep work makes life and work more meaningful

In the realm of quality of workmanship, the connection between the quality of work and satisfaction is well-known. This strong link between happiness and attention is not only true for artisans but for everyone.

There are three types of arguments that can be used:

  • The neurological argument is in favor of depth: Our brains create our worldviews based on the things we pay attention to. “Who, what, how, and why you do what you do, and what you love–is all about what you pay attention to” This phenomenon has been observed by scientists down to the neuronal level. Researchers discovered that many older people have rewired their brains so they can ignore the negative and enjoy the positive.
  • The psychological argument in favor of depth: Csikszentmihaly, a psychologist, is well-known for his theory about flow. Human beings perform the most productive when engaged in demanding activities. It is a rewarding feeling to go deep. You can find happiness when you push your mind to the limits.
  • The philosophical argument in depth: In a post-Enlightenment society, we are tasked with identifying what is meaningful. “The mission of a craftsman is not to make meaning but to nurture the capacity to know the meanings already exist.” This frees the craftsman from the nihilism that is autonomous individualism. Many jobs offer the opportunity for creativity. Computer programmers are, for instance, often considered modern craftsmen.

Deep Work

How to make deep work a part of your life

Rule #1: Work deeply

You would love to have access workplaces that encourage deep work and celebrate it. You spend a lot of your time doing superficial activities and working in distracting workplaces. It is very difficult to resist distractions. Our willpower isn’t unlimited. It is important to create routines and rituals that limit our willpower. There are four different scheduling “philosophies”.

  • Deep work scheduling according to the monastic philosophy:

This philosophy aims to maximize deep work and eliminate unnecessary obligations. The monk is able to think deeply, even when he is away from distractions. It is not easy to find people who will accept the philosophy.

  • Deep work scheduling on the bimodal Philosophy:

This idea is about to divide your time. A portion of this reserved to deep pursuits, which are well-defined. The other is open to all things. It can be done on a weekly basis (2-3 days) or over a full year (some academics often devote one season to deep research).

  • Deep work scheduling on the Rhythmic Philosophy:

This philosophy creates a steady rhythm of deep work, which eliminates the need for you to invest your energy. The work will be supported by rock-solid routines, such as deep work sessions every day between 5:30 and 7:30 AM. You can log a lot of hours of deep work.

  • Deep work scheduling is a journalistic philosophy:

Walter Isaacson, a writer, is able to squeeze in deep work when they have the time. Newport believes it is crucial to “ritualize” deep works. “Great creative mind think like artists, but work like accountants” You should have a designated place for deep work, and rules and processes in place to organize your efforts. Whatever the premise deep work should be “executed in a commercial manner”. This means that you should focus on the most important things, take the lead, and keep an accountability scoreboard.

Rule #2: Embrace boredom

“If you don’t escape boredom, you will struggle to concentrate.” It is important to just sit and relax without checking your phone every often. It is essential to sit and relax, and not check your phone every 5 minutes. The mind learns to seek constant novelty by constantly switching between low-stimuli, high-value activities and high-stimuli, low-value ones. It is important to take breaks from distraction, but not from focus.

Rule #3: Quit social media

Many of the social media tools distract us and reduce our ability to focus. We believe that they are a good idea to use as they have some benefits they provide. Newport suggests that we should take more care when choosing our tools, just like craftsmen do. The approach of the craftsman to selecting tools is to pinpoint the essential factors that determine your happiness and success professionally. Only adopt a tool if the positive effects on these factors outweigh the negative impacts. In other words, while not everyone can benefit from social media, we have come to believe we could do without it.

Rule #4: Draining the shallows

“The superficial work that is increasingly taking over the attention and time of knowledge workers is less important than it often appears at the moment.” It is not possible to do four hours of deep work per day, which is a good goal, as interruptions and distractions often interrupt our workday.

Here are some tips from Newport to make your job easier:

  • To avoid spending the day on “autopilot”, schedule every minute of your day. Instead, it is best to divide your time into segments.
  • Calculate the complexity of each action, to fix the time is actually spent on the shallows.
  • “fixed-scheduled efficiency”helps you be more productive by allowing you to finish your work earlier and not work again until the morning.
  • You can become difficult to reach: You don’t need to reply to every email you receive, but you should try to lower the expectations of others…

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Thank You.

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