You might have heard about the term, “deep work,” and wondered what it really means. Will incorporating it into your work be any helpful?
Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University, created the term "deep work" in a 2012 blog post. He went on to elaborate on this concept in his best-selling book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, published in 2016.
When you're doing deep work, you're entirely focused on the task at hand. It's also known as being "in the zone" or "state of flow." It requires concentrating entirely on one task.
By Newport’s definition, deep work refers to:
“Professional activity 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.”
These efforts provide value to your life, increase your skills, and are difficult to duplicate. You make fewer mistakes if you allow yourself to stay focused on a single job rather than stopping and starting.
On the contrary, there is also shallow work. It can be defined as non-cognitive, logistical-style chores that are frequently completed while distracted. These initiatives are easy to reproduce and don't provide any fresh value to the world.
While most of us don't have the luxury of taking days or weeks off, a few easy strategies can help you incorporate deep work into your daily routine.
If you want to include deep work into your life, you must first determine which scheduling philosophy best suits your work and lifestyle. There are four scheduling philosophies, according to Newport.
Monastic is a state of mind in which you devote practically all of your time to profound work, such as high-leverage pursuits. As a result, all other distractions, such as social media, are eliminated.
In Bimodal philosophy, you split your time on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis between deep and shallow labor.
Rhythmic work is when you divide your daily routine between deep and shallow work, such as doing deep work first thing in the morning and shallow work later in the afternoon or evening.
When you use a Journalistic approach, you fit in deep work when you have time in your schedule.
If necessary, experiment with each. For the vast majority of workers, the rhythmic philosophy is the most realistic.
Working a 9–5 with no weekend work allows you to produce high-quality and quantity work. It is called fixed-schedule productivity. As you oscillate between different jobs, the more boundaries you set for yourself, the less time you have for wool gathering. False urgency is difficult to create, but setting goals and deadlines for oneself, such as "I have 90 minutes to finish this essay" or "I start winding down work at 6:15 pm every day," will help you stay on track. When deadlines are shortened and employees have more days off than the standard 5/2 work week, more work gets done.
It's no surprise that removing distractions is an important part of intense work. When you transfer from one task to another, such as checking your phone while working on a piece, a portion of your attention is drawn back to the previous work. So, even when you return to writing, a part of your mind is still thinking about the text message you just received. Attention residue is a major side effect of this condition. According to research, regaining momentum after an interruption can take up to 20 minutes, so if you check your phone twice in an hour, you've lost two-thirds of your concentrate time.
Remove social media distractions from your life by brutally removing any site that does not organically contribute to a good life.
Accept your boredom and use this opportunity to do some serious pondering. Work out concepts during commuting, exercise, cleaning, or other repetitive duties. This is a sort of meditation that requires you to concentrate on a particular issue. When your mind wanders, the goal is to learn to bring it back to the subject at hand.
You should also schedule pauses for distractions such as social media or chatty coworkers throughout the day. These breaks allow your brain to relax and recharge before your next period of intense work. You're not fighting them this way; you're simply scheduling them at specific times so they don't distract you.
Newport emphasizes the 4DX paradigm defined in The 4 Disciplines of Execution in his book Deep Work.
Focus on the What's Important. Your Deep Work hours should be reserved for a small number of crucial and necessary goals.
Act on the Lead Measures. When it comes to determining your success, two metrics are used: lag and lead measures. Your output, such as how many blog entries you authored today, is what lag measures. The time spent in a state of deep effort, making progress toward your most critical goals, is the lead measure.
Maintain a scoreboard. Keep track of how much time you're spending on your most important project. It could be as basic as a post-it note on your computer.
Make an accountability schedule. You must examine your progress on a frequent basis to keep advancing toward your objectives. That could entail doing a weekly, monthly, or quarterly evaluation to see how much you've accomplished and creating a goal for the next few weeks.
Shallow labor includes things like checking email, filling out a spreadsheet, replying to a general request in Slack, and adjusting the monthly slide update. These are the tasks that feel SO GOOD to get out of the way, yet mean so little at the end of the day. Instead of building bricks to create a house, you shuffled some papers.
The key to determining which jobs are shallow versus deep, according to Newport, is to calculate how long it would take to train a brilliant college graduate to perform them in months. This removes some ambiguity about jobs that are significant but not deep.