While the skill of being able to do deep work is decreasing, its importance in today’s economy is increasing manifold. But, it’s still not too late to harness the power of deep work! Deep Work- Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport takes the reader into the intricacies of deep work.
Working at home in the midst of a global pandemic calls for skills that have always been vital before, but somehow, we’ve always pushed under the carpet. One of those crucial skills is the ability to do Deep Work. That is, put simply, the ability to work without distraction. In the book Deep Work- Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, author Cal Newport digs deep into something that we apparently take for granted. I mean, when we work, we just work right? But have we ever thought that working amidst the distractions of being constantly connected has completely derailed our ability to focus and pay attention in the manner we require to?
Newport defines deep work as:
“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”.
Read the definition a couple of times, and really let it sink in. To me, the ability to do this kind of intense work is akin to meditation. It is also something that, sadly, I realise I have been drifting away from. In the book he gives the examples of a craftsman who is totally immersed in his creation. Indeed, some professions require one to be in a state of depth most of the time. What happens to most of us today, who are what he calls ‘knowledge workers’, is that this connection gets a bit muddied. And then, we begin to use “busyness as a proxy for productivity”.
Newport believes that the ability to perform deep work is becoming extremely rare today. The reasons for that are many (and no prizes for guessing that being connected all the time tops the list) and he describes them in the book. However, it is anybody’s guess as to why the human attention span is dwindling like never before.
While the skill of being able to do deep work is decreasing, its importance in today’s economy is increasing manifold. This sweet point is exactly where the modern worker must capitalize on if he or she wants to move towards greater success and better quality of life.
In the book he purports the Deep Work Hypothesis. According to this, “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at the exactly same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive”.
The book describes the neurological, psychological and philosophical arguments in support of this type of working. It also sets rules and gives practical and actionable insights into how one can cultivate this ability to work deeply. The ideas and principles that are described are based on research and thorough analysis, as well as a good mix of case studies.
My biggest takeaway from the book has been the acknowledgement of the danger that not indulging in such intense work, poses to my career and quality of life. For me, picking up some of the handy tips to push shallow work away from the focus and indulge in more deep work sessions looks like a good proposition. One of these is to include intensity in the work I do after ‘batching’ work into uninterrupted batches. Intensity plays a very important role in productivity. When you maximize the intensity you also maximize the results per unit of time working.
As we get ready to face a brave new world where the rules of work and life are changing drastically, the simple ability to work deeply will set the really serious workers apart. Deep work is finally getting it’s due!