I recently read “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport – a paradigm-shifting book for how we approach work.
Newport’s basic argument is that we spend far too much time on “shallow work” (managing emails, administrative tasks, switching between tasks), and not nearly enough time on “deep work” (work that requires deep concentration, serious thought, full application of our intelligence).
His opening chapters argue convincingly that Deep Work is:
“Valuable” (because we are doing what only we, with our specific training and experience, can do),
“Meaningful” (we feel very good after achieving deep work)
And “Rare” (few people are doing much deep work because everyone is so distracted – research claims, on average, we check our email over 70 times a day, and touch our phones thousands of times a day).
The book opens with a compelling anecdote is about how Carl Jung built himself a solitary tower in his country garden, where he could go to think and write in solitude, in a state of undisturbed deep work, sometimes for days at a time.
Do you seriously think, Newport asks, Jung could have had the intellectual clarity to do battle with his rival Sigmund Freud if he had not allowed himself proper time and space for deep work?
The second half of the book is full of practical strategies for how to become more self-disciplined with deep work (such as using our calendars, blocking time, finding a less distracted space, having goals, having rituals).
He also gives the realistic advice that we can only manage about 3-4 hours of truly deep work a day. I found this very liberating. I have often sat down, ambitious to do a day’s solid writing, and then floundered a few hours in and felt very discouraged. If I simply chose to do a solid 3 hours deep work each day, and then got on with my my “shallow” tasks, I would make much improved progress and feel better.
How much time do you spend a day on Deep Work?
How much on Shallow Work?
How can you create a strategy for doing more Deep Work, at least a couple of hours a day – for serious thought, creativity, problem solving? Deep Work is what makes us stand out as human beings, over computers. It’s what makes the most of our qualifications and experiences. It’s much more satisfying.
This book complemented another book I recently read “Procrastinate on Purpose” by Rory Vaden – which makes a great case for outsourcing, automating and eliminating as many shallow tasks in your life as possible.
Thank you Christian Liechti recommending me to read Deep Work.