Hey There, Welcome Back! For those who know me or if you are a consistent reader of this blog you know by now that I am all about productivity and using my time as wisely as I can. You see, there are lot of people who ask me how am I able to read books and review them along with managing my ten month old daughter, Anaisha who keeps me and everyone in the family on toes 24*7. Today I am gonna share my secret with you! On this particular day, I am sitting inside powering through a bunch of awesome tasks that I really want to achieve. I have been managing nursing my baby, helping in household course as well as achieving my weakly goals, by doing the Deep Work. What is Deep Work, well it is the topic of today’s book review on Cal Newport’s deep work which are the rules for the focused success in a distracted world.
Why I particularly loved this book is because, it’s all about productivity! It speaks to enthusiast’s knowledge workers, entrepreneurs, people who basically want to get more out of every single minute of their day. If you went through my earlier review on The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, you know that it talks about focusing on specific thing. But it didn’t necessarily put into words how can one master doing that One Thing. My intent of providing back to back reviews of these two books is that you can draw parallels between the two and have all the required insights as well as tool to build your distraction free productive habit to achieve your goals.
Both the books, The One Thing and Deep Work stress about performing single task versus multiple tasks. You and I both know when we have got that browser open with like a bazillion tabs and we are flinching between all sorts of stuff its difficult to focus on the thing at hand. If you are one of those who checks their email inbox constantly then you are being your own worst distraction. I mean we all do it! We value busyness over boredom of performing single task at moment of time.
What I like most about Cal Newport’s Deep Work is one it is actually bifurcated into two parts first segment where he explains about what Deep Work is and different methods by which you can do it. Second part of the book is about how you put what you have learned into action which I think is pretty rare! In a lot of book, you often get them explaining the really deep concepts that you need to grasp but they don’t give you how-to actually do it. Cal Newport is also the author of many other fabulous read that I plan to read in future like “Digital Minimalism” and co-authored several other books. Author Cal Newport is an MIT graduate and currently Assistant Professor at Georgetown University. He claims that Deep Work allowed him to double his output of research paper while raising a family, working on this book and teaching full-time at a prestigious university.
So let’s dive into couple of things you are gonna learn from this book and then it’s up to you to pick it up and see how Deep Work will be able to impact your life. I highly recommend it, one of my favourite book this year!
Cal defines Deep Work as professional activities performed in a state of distraction free concentration that pushes your cognitive abilities to their limit. These efforts create new value that improves your skill that is hard to replicate. Would love to explain it by sharing two examples which I found really motivating. Growing up I was a crazy muggle who couldn’t resist any hocus pocus in the world of Hogwarts. Well, JK Rowling, one of the prolific authors, used Deep Work to complete the final books of her Harry Potter series like “The Deadly Hollows” in 2007. She needed to escape the distraction of screaming kids and barking dogs so she checked into a suite in a 5-star hotel in downtown Edinburg Scotland. She says “ I didn’t intend to stay there but there but the first days writing went well so I kept coming back and I ended up finishing the last of the Harry Potter books here”. Now we know, why and how she was able to craft a magnificent world of magic and become one of the most successful personalities in the world.
Second example in the book talks about Bill Gates since he also used Deep Work to create multi-billion-dollar company, Microsoft. In 1974 to program the first version of basic, Bill Gates practised Deep Work in for 8 weeks. Cal says that Gates worked with such intensity for such lengths during the 2-month stretch that he would often collapse into sleep on his keyboard in the middle of writing a line of code. He would then sleep for an hour to wake up and pick up right where he left off. The BASIC software that Gates wrote in 8 weeks, well, in a state of deep work became the foundation of a multi-billion-dollar company.
I know, both the cases – whether it is Bill Gates or JK Rowling might be extreme as most people don’t have the ability to go off the grid and do the Deep Work for weeks at a time but Cal shows that we can maintain a busy schedule and still find ways to do Deep Work and produce significant result in our lives that we often find hard to replicate. But how exactly does the deep work lead to these best-selling books, innovative products and elite level of productivity.
While neuroscientists have found that intense period of focus in isolated fields of work causes myelin to develop in relevant areas of the brain. Myelin is a white tissue that develops around neuron and allows brain cells to fire faster and cleaner. Therefore, in a sense when we practice Deep Work we upgrade our brain and allow specific brain circuits to fire more effortlessly and effectively. The brain upgrade we get from Deep Work allows you to rapidly connect ideas and uncover creative solutions. In today’s economy the ability to do Deep Work is increasingly valuable an increasingly rare. It is valuable because when you produce something great in our hyper-connected world it has the ability to spread to billions of people. Moreover, producing something great is necessary to stand-out amongst the noise and avoid being forgotten by the flood of information that we deal with day to day basis. Think of your last tweet or LinkedIn post, how long did it last and how quickly was it forgotten.
Deep Work is becoming increasingly rare, because it requires undivided attention and our world is filled with more and more tempting distraction. So, the ability to perform Deep Work is becoming increasingly difficult. Friends and followers online expects you to maintain a social media presence, it’s not easy to ignore these distractions!
In 2012 fall study led by psychologists Wilhelm Hofmann and Roy Baumeister involving more than 200 adults found that we are only able to resist temptations to take break from work to check email or surf the web or watch TV, but there is hope we can build a scale of Deep Work and escape the trap of constant distractions. Thus, separating us from the pack and making us indispensable in today’s economy. Here are three Deep Work strategies that you can incorporate into your schedule to heighten your ability to focus and produce results that are hard to replicate!
Deep Work Strategy 1: Schedule Distraction
Rule of thumb is to schedule your distraction periods at home as well as at work. Most of us allow ourselves to go online at any moment and check our phone whenever it buzzes or dings. By doing so you are training your brain to avoid Deep Work. A day full of unscheduled distraction is training your brain to give in to any and all distractions. In order to build your tolerance to avoid distractions you need to place boundaries on your distractions. In the beginning keep a notepad nearby and put down the next distraction break you will have. Hold your focus until that time. I understand that at first it’s going to be painful but remember you are trying to build a muscle It is likely to be effective like you are doing your reps. Always remind yourself that you are building your stamina to avoid being distracted as well as build your ability to concentrate.
Deep Work Strategy 2: Develop a Rhythmic Deep Work Ritual
Author Cal says that the easiest way to consistently start Deep Work sessions is to transform them into a simple regular habit. The goal in other words is to generate a rhythm for this work that removes the need for you to invest energy in deciding if and when you are going to go Deep. Cal uses several examples of the book to show that schedule chunks of Deep Focus in an adhoc manner doesn’t yield much productivity at all. For people who are not seasoned at doing Deep Work its best for them to have a reoccurring time each day or each week to go into Deep Work. Early morning is typically the best time to do this because at that time you typically don’t have to deal with incoming request. The research show new to Deep Work can typically do it for about an hour and master of Deep Work can typically hold their attention upto four hours in intervals between 60 and 90 minutes throughout the day. Therefore, the ultimate goal of each day is to plant Deep Work rituals throughout the day.
Deep Work Strategy 3: Evening Shutdowns
The third strategy is to cultivate Deep Work in life is to have a daily shutdown complete ritual. Essentially, sleep is the precise we need to pay in order to do Deep Work. It is something like the interest we pay on the loans of intense focus required to do Deep Work to ensure that we get adequate sleep and restore our attentional reserves for the following day. Cal recommend that we incorporate an evening shutdown into our daily routine. An evening shutdown ritual involves making a plan to complete any unfinished tasks goals or projects the following day. Getting a series of steps lined out for the following day is enough to get items off your mind so you can disconnect for hours. Rest of the day when you get things off your mind you restore the ability to sleep well and do Deep Work the following day. After Cal completes his plan for the following day, he will say to himself shutdown complete. In the end deep work is incredibly valuable because it changes your brain and allows you to produce innovative work that is hard to replicate.
That was the core message that I gathered from the book Deep Work. Cal Newport does amazing job in explaining Deep Work rituals and reducing the fear of leaving shallow work behind. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking to make anything meaningful in this world.
Newport, C. (2016). Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
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