Deep work is a skill that, in today’s world of constant stimulation and distraction, is getting harder and harder to learn. But the ability to focus completely on a high-value task is more essential than ever.
Think of it this way:
Imagine you’re in the sea. Under the ocean, there is hardly any noise. There are hundreds of thousands more species in the ocean than there are on land because there is less distraction from the work of evolution. Down in the depths with nothing but time, jellyfish have evolved to clone themselves when injured, glow in the dark, and some are even immortal.
This jellyfish metaphor encapsulates the essence of deep work. In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport writes, “Human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging.” Newport lauds the ability to focus on a cognitively difficult task without distraction and offers four “rules” to train your brain to do this with ease. In time and with practice, deep work makes you able to achieve better results in less time. It’s like a “superpower”, but you don’t have to get bitten by a spider or live under the ocean to attain it.
Through exercises like blocking out time, embracing boredom and quiet, productive meditation, and balancing work with true rest, anyone can learn how to work deeply.
Benjamin P. Hardy defines deep work as rare, high-value, and non-replicable. It can’t be easily outsourced or copied by anyone else. Whereas “shallow work” is common, low-value, and easily done by anyone. Hardy says, “Talking is shallow. Anyone can do it. It’s easily replicated. It’s low value. Conversely, deep work is rare. It’s done by people who are focused and working while everyone else is talking. Deep work is so good it can’t be ignored.” If your phone is pinging and you’re unable to submerge yourself completely in a task, you are not doing your best work.
A jellyfish doesn’t stop to check email and social media when it’s in the middle of something important, it never gets tired of floating in silence–and it has been on the earth longer than anything else. So dive deep, jelly-preneurs!