Have you ever been so busy with work that you couldn’t concentrate on any task for more than a few minutes? If yes, you are not alone.
In today’s fast-paced world, distractions are everywhere, and it’s getting harder and harder to stay focused and productive. However, it’s not impossible.
Cal Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University. In his book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” he gives valuable insights and practical tips on how to master “deep work.”
Let’s get into the deep work summary together and find out how to stay focused in a distracted world.
What is Deep work?
“Deep work” is the ability to focus without interruption on a task to make progress and deliver remarkable results. Who wouldn’t want it?
To get into the deep work zone, you need to know the difference between two types of tasks: deep work and shallow work.
• Deep Tasks: Activities that demand considerable concentration, such as writing this blog post. It is essential to stay focused.
• Shallow Tasks: Activities that demand a little concentration, such as responding to emails or scrolling through social media.
Deep work is what leads to big ideas and real progress.
💡 Personal Insight: In today’s knowledge economy, the ability to do “deep work” is becoming more valuable because it lets people produce more in less time, which leads to more success and satisfaction.
Why Deep Work Summary Matters?
Tech helped us do things much faster, but it also made it harder for us to stay focused.
Deep work is essential in our digital world to be more productive and get more done.
In addition to being more productive, deep work has numerous benefits, including:
- Better focus and creativity: You can only use your full potential when you give undivided attention to a task.
- Increased job satisfaction: If you do deep work, you can get more done in less time, which makes you feel more satisfied and more in charge of your work.
- Better work-life balance: If you can focus on your work during work hours, you won’t have to worry about work when you’re not at work.
- Increased earning potential: When you’re able to produce valuable results quickly, you’ll be able to command higher salaries and more opportunities for advancement.
💡Personal Insight: Today’s economy changes so quickly that if you want a successful career that lasts for decades, you need to repeat two practices over and over again:
• Learn new skills as new technologies and methods appear.
• Use these skills to get remarkable results
The only way to do that is to get better at doing deep work.
Now it’s time for the big question: How to master deep work?
How to Master Deep Work?
Newport provides four rules for mastering deep work, including:
- Practice Deep Work
- Improve Your Ability to Focus
- Constrain Your Distractions
- Cut Out Shallow Work
Rule #1: Practice Deep Work
The key to deep work is approaching it with structure, habits, and discipline rather than depending solely on willpower. Why?
Willpower has a limited amount, and the more you use it, the less you have.
Making deep work a habit will help you avoid distractions and save willpower because you won’t have to force yourself to switch back from distractions. But what are distractions?
Distractions are anything you would rather be doing than deep work, such as eating, sleeping, or browsing the internet.
How to build the habit of deep work:
1️⃣ Schedule Deep Work: Block off time in your calendar for deep work and treat it like a non-negotiable appointment. This schedule will help you stay focused on what you need to do and avoid getting distracted.
2️⃣ Choose the deep work type that suits you best:
Each schedule has its structure, pros, and cons, and it’s up to you to find the one that fits your work and personality the best.
The monastic schedule: like a monk, you spend most of your time working alone (many days in a row) and intently concentrating. It involves removing as many shallow work tasks as possible by delegating them to assistants.
💡 Personal Insight: If you’re a famous writer or someone who gets paid for the quality of his thoughts, this schedule is perfect for you, but it might not be practical for most jobs.
The periodic schedule: involves carving out regular periods each week, month, or year to focus on deep work. The period should be at least a full day, so this schedule might not work for many people, especially those with regular jobs.
The rhythmic schedule: means setting aside a regular amount of time each day for deep work. This schedule is more practical for most jobs and lifestyles, but it doesn’t let you work deeply for a full day like the monastic and periodic schedules.
The journalistic schedule: involves finding time to do deep work whenever possible. This schedule gives you the most freedom, but it’s also the worst at forming habits and takes a lot of energy from your willpower.
3️⃣ Create an environment that supports deep work. To create a better environment:
- Choose a quiet, distraction-free space.
- Eliminate or reduce the use of social media.
- Minimize interruptions from emails, phone calls, and notifications.
4️⃣ Train Your Brain: The more you practice deep work, the easier it becomes. You can start by focusing on a task for short periods and gradually increasing the duration.
5️⃣ Daily Routine: Devote daily time and space to deep work and have rituals for transitioning into and out of deep work.
6️⃣ Take Breaks: Regular breaks are essential to avoid burnout and increase productivity. Take short breaks throughout the day to recharge and refocus.
💡 Personal Insight: It’s also worth noting that, according to the author of “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise,” a novice can only handle about an hour a day of intense concentration, while experts who have had extensive practice can sustain up to 4 hours, but rarely exceed that.
Rule #2: Improve your Ability to Focus
In Rule #1, we talked about practicing deep work. The 2nd Rule takes us one step further → Improve your ability to focus.
Improving your ability to focus is a big part of getting the most out of your deep work.
Focus is not just a voluntary action you can execute at any time. It is more like a mental muscle that must be trained and strengthened through consistent use. The more time you spend on deep work, the better you will become at it.
But indulging in distractions will only hinder your ability to concentrate:
- Neurologically, constantly switching between tasks and giving in to distractions hurts brain effectiveness. People who are easily distracted jump around from one thing to another and use more of their brain power on activities that don’t matter.
- Behaviorally, if you have developed a habit of turning to your smartphone every time you feel bored, your brain has likely been rewired to crave distractions and novelty.
If you want to be able to work deeply, you need to learn how to focus better. How do you do so?
Here are some techniques to help you improve your ability to focus:
- Plan when you’ll use the internet in advance, and don’t use it at all other times.
- Set tight deadlines that will force you to pay attention so you can meet them. Setting deadlines will give you a sense of urgency and keep you from getting distracted.
- Engage in productive meditation, such as thinking about a problem while doing a low-intensity physical activity, like walking or showering.
- Play memory games or learn to remember a deck of cards to help you remember things.
💡 Personal insight: One way to change your mindset is to stop thinking of focus as a specific time and distraction as the norm. Instead, turn this around. The focus should be your default, and distraction should be a break.
Rule #3: Constrain Your Distractions
Have you ever found yourself constantly scrolling through your social media feed, only to realize hours have passed and you’ve accomplished nothing? Many of us face this problem in today’s world of endless distractions.
The major distraction that most of us face today is social media. But what makes social media so distracting and addictive?
According to Newport, the Corps designed the internet and social media to be this way! But don’t worry; Newport gives us a solution to this problem.
Instead of not using social media at all, Newport suggests making a well-thought-out case about the benefits, costs, and missed opportunities of doing so. This way, you can determine whether it’s contributing meaningfully to your goals.
If the benefits don’t substantially outweigh the negatives, then it might be time to reconsider using that tool.
So, how do you reduce internet addiction and social media distraction? There are two tactics.
- First, try giving up social media or another internet addiction for 30 days and see if life would be better without it.
- Secondly, plan another way to spend your time instead of relying on the internet, such as structured hobbies with defined goals. By eliminating distractions and focusing on meaningful activities, you can make the most of your time and achieve more.
Rule #4: Cut Out Shallow Work
Even if you’ve mastered the art of deep work, you might still struggle with shallow work taking over your schedule.
So, let’s talk about how we can do less “shallow work” and more “deep work.”
But first, it’s essential to understand the dangers of working endlessly without rest. Even though it might seem like a good idea to work long hours, you probably won’t be able to use all of that time to do deep work. Research shows that you can only work deeply for 4 hours per day, and even less if you are starting.
Now, to deal with shallow work, constrain your work time.
If you give yourself a deadline, you’ll be more likely to prioritize the tasks that truly matter and ditch the ones that aren’t. But how do you distinguish between shallow and deep tasks?
You can tell the difference by measuring the depth of your tasks. How?
Estimate the time each task should take and the depth of the work involved.
A college graduate might only need a week to learn how to do something as simple as make an analytics report, so this is a shallow task you should delegate.
However, A college graduate may take several months or even years to master the art of conducting industry research to identify a promising business opportunity, so this is a “deep task” you should do yourself.
Here’s the thing: shallow work should never take up most of your time, but in most careers, you’ll inevitably have some “shallow tasks” in your schedule. As a rule, set aside 30–50% of your time for shallow work. For beginners, it’s not uncommon to have only 1 hour of deep work in an 8-hour workday.
1️⃣ Check out this video to find out more about deep work.
2️⃣ Find out how to organize:
In conclusion, deep work is a valuable skill in today’s knowledge economy and can lead to increased success and fulfillment in your career.
Whether you’re a student, professional, or entrepreneur, mastering deep work can help you achieve your goals and thrive in today’s fast-paced world.
Do you currently practice deep work? Which strategies have you found to be the most effective for keeping you focused and productive?
Share your thoughts in the comments below! ✨