I recently read Cal Newport new book titled “DEEP WORK – RULES FOR FOCUSED SUCCESS IN A DISTRACTED WORLD” and found it an interesting book and most useful for my own career. It opens by explaining the value of working deep which basically means working in high concentration on things that are important to your career, the book continues with how hard it is to work in deep mode and then brings practical practices for achieving this. If you a person who is self aware and likes to improve his productivity – then I recommend you buy this book.
A proven scientific fact is that people fight desires all day long. one should expect to be bombarded with the desire to do anything but work deeply throughout the day. Another fact is that a person have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. you got 4 hours top per day for doing deep work. Rituals helps you harness your limited willpower to work deep. Do not trust on your good intentions to work deep – you will probably fail. you need rituals.
Some effective rituals
- Schedule Every Minute of Your Day: at the beginning of each workday, plan every hour of your day. I use google calendar to schedule appointment for each task I plan. Quantify the Depth of Every Activity – ask yourself: How long would it take to train a smart recent college graduate with no specialized training in my field to complete this task? If the answer is less than 3 months than this task is shallow and you do not want to do it. reduce your shallow work, this will leave you with more energy to work deep. Aimed on small important goals – you know that you need goals – right?
- Where you’ll work: have a special location where you work deep e.g., a library with good atmosphere, pleasant coffee-shop. Some times, make grand gesture – go to some place special to work deep e.g., go to work from an hotel in another city for couple of days, order a flight to and back from Japan and work during the flight. you can practice ‘productive meditation‘ which means that you can use the time of walking your dog or other monotonic exercise to think on a specific deep question. this requires careful planing of what is the question and avoid looping the same thoughts.
- How long you’ll work: limit the deep work time. concentrating is hard – your brain will do whatever he can to stop you. I’m using the pomadoro technique.
- How you’ll work once you start to work: ban on internet use and cellular activity. Act on the lead measures: there are two types of metrics, lag measure e.g., publishing 6 paper in a year or learn the design of 10 systems in 2 months and lead measure e.g., the number of hours one spend in deep work. lead measure help you to accomplish short term tasks that contribute to the lag measure.
- At the end of the day: Have an end to your working day. do not continue to work from home at night. At the end of the day do a shutdown-ritual which includes documenting all new tasks you collected during the day, quickly skim all open tasks, plan your next day and saying to yourself something like “shutdown complete!”. no more thinking on work after that. Downtime is important because:
- Downtime helps have insights
- Downtime helps recharge the energy needed to work deeply
- You should complete the 4 hour deep work at the office. The work you can do at night will not be deep – so no point doing it.
- Limiting your time necessitate more careful thinking about your organizational habits.
- At the end of the week: plan next week tasks focusing on tasks that are important, review the tasks you completed this week and check if it is close to your plan from the week before. understand what happened if you are not close.
- Deep Work: 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.
- The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the 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.
- Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.