Professional activities 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.
Cal Newport, Deep Work
Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of the excellent book by Cal Newport: Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World. This book has helped me change the way I work for the better. I’ve bought a timer; I’ve adopted the Jerry Seinfeld approach by marking my calendar daily with specific work accomplished. And, I’ve actaully worked on long-neglected projects. In other words, this book has given me tangible ways to get more actual, more important, “deep” work done. And, I was able to put these ideas into practice immediately.
Deep Work clearly differentiates “deep work” from “shallow work.” Here’s one way to think about it: “shallow work” can be done with pretty disengaged brains, whereas “deep work” requires you to fully engage as you focus on the task at hand. One task at hand at a time.
He warns against “busyness as proxy for work.” And this is certainly a good and needed warning – if we are busy, we tell ourselves that we are doing important work. That may not be so.
My handouts begin with this section: “Why is this book worth our time?” Here are the four reasons that I think this book is definitely worth our time:
#1 – We are all too easily and too quickly distracted. This book provides some “save me from distraction” tools.
#2 – We spend entire days, partly because of all those distractions, without doing much (any) actual work. This book will give us strategies to avoid and overcome such distractions and get more genuine “deep work” done.
#3 – The ability to actually do “deep work” may be a major competitive advantage for you as an individual, and for organizations, and groups within organizations
#4 – We all need some “tricks” (some rituals; routines). This book offers many such “tricks,” without making you choose “this” one over “that” one exclusively.
And here are my four takeaways from the book:
#1 – Aim for 96 minutes of “Deep Work” a day, for a start – then aim for four hours a day as your ultimate goal.
#2 – Find and use the rituals and routines (“tricks”) that work for you. (Read the book – try the ideas that work for you)…
#3 – Quit doing so much shallow work!!!
#4 – Do much “accomplishing” deep work; and do some “learning” deep work.
This is a rare book – practical enough, with enough “different” suggestions, that I could take specific ideas that I liked (that worked for me), and I have fully put these into practice beginning the day after I finished reading the book.
If you never struggle with distractions; if you are fully immersed daily in genuine “deep work,” then you can skip reading this book.
But, if you are something like me, struggling with distractions and “busyness as proxy for work”, I think you should consider buying and reading this book. First, to think about whether or not you are doing enough actual deep work. Second, to find tangible ways to better tackle your own work challenges.
This is a very good book!
You will be able to purchase my synopsis of this book soon, with my comprehensive handout and the audio recording of my presentation, from our companion site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.