Deep Work (2016) is all about how the growth of technology has destroyed our ability to concentrate profoundly on tasks – and how to overcome this barrier. This summary embellishes different strategies that can help you enhance your work output and get the most out of your free time.
About the author:
Cal Newport is an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University specializing in the theory of distributed algorithms. Numerous publications, including Inc. Magazine, The Globe and Mail, and 800-CEO-Read, have featured one of his recent books, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, on their lists for the best business book of the year.
Both multitasking and distractions are killers of productivity:
Most people assume that doing multiple tasks simultaneously is the best way to make use of their time. However, this assumption is way off. In simple terms; multitasking doesn’t lead to productivity.
Sophie LeRoy is a professor at the University of Minnesota. She conducted research where she proved that when moving from task 1 to task 2, your mind keeps its focus hooked to the first task. This leads to people failing to give full focus on the second task and consequently fail to give a good performance.
In her experiment, she observed two groups. Group A was working on a puzzle before she interrupted them and told them to pause and switch to reading resumes. However, she let group B finish the puzzle before moving on to reading. In between the two tasks, she would ask them quick questions to see how many keywords from the puzzle each group remembers.
The results were that group A was so focused on the word puzzle that they failed to make the best decision about hiring the right person. In contrast, group B was able to complete both tasks in their best performance.
Long story short, productivity can’t be achieved if you are multitasking. Neither can being connected to the electronic world be good for your productivity. Actually, the mere presence of social media tabs on your computer screen can cost you every shred of focus with the simple pop-up of notification on the screen, even if you don’t open it.
For example, a study done in 2012 revealed that workers spend 60% of their time surfing the internet and only 30% reading and answering work-related emails. And despite the statistics of the situations, workers feel that they’ve been working for a very long time.
Moving around our concentration while doing any tasks leaves us all over the place. It might make you feel busy and accomplished, but in reality, you complete a tiny fraction of what you could’ve done if you didn’t get distracted.
“Instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.”
There are different tactics for obtaining deep work, but they all need the same key, intention:
Now that you are aware of some of the things that stand in the way of your deep work, you need to figure out how to get past them. There might not be a universal strategy to do that; taking some however steps can be helpful:
Monastic approach: this strategy advises you to seclude yourself from any source of distraction and live the life of a monk.
Bi-modal approach: it involves dividing your time into two separate sections; one where you seclude yourself and get work done, and the other is your free time to do anything you want.
Rhythmic approach: in this approach, you would work in terms of blocks like 90 minutes of straight deep work, for example. You can use a calendar to track your performance.
Journalistic approach: it’s to the moment that pops as a free time in your day as an opportunity to do deep work.
Despite what strategy you choose to approach, you should remember that these ways are methodical and not random. And try to keep your deep work sustainable. It could be light exercise, a healthy diet, or a caffeine boost. The important thing is to provide your body with what it needs to provide you with the best performance.
Sharpen your brain’s concentration and select your usage of technology wisely:
In the world we currently live in, our mind has been accustomed to craving distraction. In the end, wherever we look, we see people hooked to screens, playing video games, scrolling through their phones, staring at their computer.
The problem is that with time, our brain has grown to be wired to be easily distracted. That’s because, as we developed as humans, distractions have been a scheme that tricks us into losing focus from the serious events that, in reality, scare us. Due to such an issue, it’s tough for us to enter the phase of deep focus and stay in it for a reasonable amount of time to at least finish our important work.
That’s where productive meditation comes in. It helps to recalibrate and retrieve focus for your thinking, and here’s how it works:
You can take advantage of the unproductive activities that are still mandatory to process a problem you need to take care of without wasting valuable time. These activities can be walking your dog, taking a shower, or commuting to work…
Begin by asking yourself questions that would help you identify the problem. Once you locate your target, ask yourself, what will I need to solve or pursue this target?” think of it as a hardcore exercise for your brain to train its focus skills.
It is also essential to use social media and the internet wisely. If you use Facebook to stay connected to friends, communicate with them on it, and make an effort to communicate with them in person as well.
“Maybe social media tools are at the core of your existence. You won’t know either way until you sample life without them.”
Making time for both work and free time is crucial to recharge energy:
Whenever we come back home from a long workday, we all aim to do the same thing – nothing. this is when we don’t have schedules to complete certain tasks. Ironically enough, though, we end up doing the same routine every night; watch some tv, scroll through social media, or stare at our computers. When it’s finally time to sleep, we feel more exhausted than we did after work which drains even our next day’s energy.
To steer clear of this issue, try to schedule everything you do in a day and free up time to think about how you want to spend it. Begin every workday with a schedule divided into 30-minute blocks. In each 30 minute interval, do a different thing. The first can be to answer work emails, second to relax a bit, third to brainstorm your next project idea, fourth to eat lunch, and so on…
You can’t escape the sudden changes that shift your whole schedule, but just rearrange your task blocks when this happens. This idea can be as flexible as you wish it to be, and its purpose is to make you aware of how you spend your time.
Apply the same method for your weekends and evening to add to your goal profit bucket even in your free time and without sweating it. So try to restrain all work-related topics and tasks the moment you step out of your office. this will give you time to unwind and recharge peacefully.
Finally, try your best to limit your internet usage on weekends and evenings. Technology, no matter how important it is, has more harm than good. So don’t let it suck up all your free time and make you more stressed. Breaks should be a time to destress and be peaceful; reading a book, exercising, or going out can be perfect for doing the trick.