Deep work is a skill that, in today’s world of constant multitasking and distraction, is getting harder and harder to learn. The ability to focus completely on a single challenging task is essential to productivity and time management.
What is Deep Work?
Deep work is dedicating your whole attention to a single, high-value task for a set period of time. This sounds simple, and it should be. Unfortunately, many workplaces value multitasking and busyness as their preferred way to get things done.
Have you heard the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder”? In a way, this also describes deep work.
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.”
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 build a suit to attain it.
“Human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging.”
How to Get Deep Work Done
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:
- Block out time for high-value tasks
- Embrace short periods of boredom and quiet
- Productive meditation
- Balancing focused work with true rest
When blocking out time, close your email and silence any device that will pull your attention away from your task. If you worry about missing communications, add an away message that says, “I am giving my full attention to an important task. I’ll follow up with you soon.”
The time of day when you schedule your focused time also affects how efficiently you get your work done. Self-development author, Brian Tracy, is well-known for his “Eat That Frog” method. Start your morning by getting the most important, most difficult, and most dreaded task out of the way, so you are free to focus on the rest of your day.
If your phone is pinging, emails are popping up on your screen, and you’re unable to submerge yourself completely in a task, you are not doing your best work. Making a period of deep work part of your morning will increase your both your productivity and your sense of personal achievement.