Deep work: as described by Cal himself, deep work is a professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. One to two hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration
can produce a lot of valuable output. Consequently, the few who cultivate this skill of going deep and then make it the core of their working life will thrive. The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare, while it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. It’s because every day, we are bombarded with emails from co-workers that expect us to answer them immediately.
Bosses want us to work in open offices, with massive distractions all around us. So Cal argues that this type of work doesn’t allow us to go deep. He calls this type of work shallow work. It’s noncognitive demanding, often performed while distracted, doesn’t create much new value globally, and is easy to replicate. There are two core abilities for thriving in today’s economy:
The ability to quickly master hard things and produce at an elite level,
in terms of both quality and speed. But to learn hard things quickly, you must focus intensely without distraction.
If you’re trying to learn a complicated new skill, like programming, in a state of low concentration, for example, while having your Facebook feed open.
You’re firing too many circuits simultaneously, and your brain can’t focus properly. This is called attention residue.
Let’s say you’re working on a deep work project, for example, writing an article. And you happen to glance at your email box, and you see a few emails that need answering. Even if you return to your deep work, you’re going to be producing at a much lower cognitive capacity rate because there has been a residue on your attention from that quick distraction.
When you switch from task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow. Even if you finish Task A before moving on, your watch remains divided for a while. To produce at your peak level, you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task, free from distraction. No emails, no Facebook, no co-workers are asking you what they should eat for lunch.
There is a way to incorporate deep work and escape the constant distraction. Here are a few strategies you can use:
The easiest way to start in-depth work sessions is to transform them into a regular habit. Adding routines and rituals to your working life is designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into a state of unbroken concentration. If you suddenly decide in the middle of a distracted afternoon spend web browsing to
switch your attention to a cognitively demanding task; you’ll draw heavily from your finite will power to direct your attention.
Such attempts will, therefore, frequently fail. On the other hand, if you deployed smart routines and rituals – perhaps a set time and quiet location used for your deep tasks each afternoon – you’d require much less willpower to start and keep going. In other words, to generate a rhythm for this work removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and when you’re going to go deep.
For a novice, somewhere around 1 hour a day of intense concentration seems to be the limit, while for experts, this number can expand to as many as four hours. Deep work is best practiced early in the morning. Typically at that time, you will have no distractions.
Allow yourself to be lazy.
Regularly resting your brain improves the quality of deep work. So when you work, work hard. But when you’re done, be done. Another critical commitment to succeed is to create a shutdown ritual. Only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day can convince your
brain to downshift to the level where it can begin to recharge for the next day. Put another way, trying to squeeze a little more work out of your evenings might reduce your effectiveness the next day enough that you end up getting less done if you had instead respected a shutdown.
Schedule in advance when you’ll use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether outside of these times. Please write it down on a notepad and record the next time you’re allowed to go online. Until you arrive at that time, absolutely no network connectivity is allowed – no matter how tempting. The point is that we increasingly recognize that these tools fragment our time and reduce our ability to concentrate.
This is especially dangerous after the workday is over, where the freedom in your schedule enables the Internet to become central to your leisure time.
Such behavior is dangerous, as it weakens your mind’s general ability to resist distraction, making deep work difficult later when you want to concentrate. In other words, when it comes to relaxation, don’t default to whatever catches your attention at the moment, but instead, dedicate some advance thinking to how you want to spend your free time.
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed the article.