On finer analysis, deep work denotes a methodology that helps bring out the creative and analytical talent in you and helps you achieve career goals with ease. It can be practiced in multiple ways and proper planning will help you in making the best use of the philosophy. When you pick the apt method and execute the plan properly, the results can be absolutely rewarding.
A Guide to Deep Work for a Better Life
February 2, 2023
Deep Work Guide: How to Achieve Profound Focus
It is quite commonplace to become habituated to juggling frequently between work and domestic chores, nowadays. Several professionals handling their work-life and domestic chores will argue this is a necessity for sustenance. However, it can be difficult to achieve bigger things in life and career without harnessing the capacity and skill to focus on major objectives. You will have to quit the habit of handling too many things simultaneously or doing things while getting distracted by thoughts and elements. This is precisely why stalwarts and innovators resort to a methodology called Deep work.
The basics of Deep Work explained
Deep work can be defined as a carefully developed state of mind when your concentration level is at its peak. Introduced by Cal Newport, a noted computer science professor, this concept has influenced many leaders and social icons, including the likes of Bill Gates. The core concept of Deep work is you have to eliminate various sources of distraction (mostly technology-driven communication tools) to obtain profound focus. Staying away from such distracting stuff for a period is a prerequisite to avail of the inherent advantages of this methodology.
The concept focuses on the importance of detaching your mind from multiple sources of distraction to learn important lessons and produce quality work. Newport wrote a book on the theory that had a disruptive impact and it has been subjected to several interpretations since its inception. His theory suggests to attain true productivity, you need to distance yourself from tools, gadgets, and elements in your personal and professional life that disrupt free thinking and hamper concentration. These include mobile, email, social media platforms, and so on.
Understanding the distinction between Deep and shallow work
Before delving into nuances of Deep work philosophy, it is important to learn how it is different from what Newport refers to as ‘Shallow work’! The latter can be defined as regular tasks we execute as routines, at the workplace or at home. These tasks do not need a high level of focus and examples include emailing colleagues, checking and setting reminders, replying to work-related emails etc. While it is not realistic to evade all such types of Shallow work, those with aspirations to utilize and hone their creative thoughts and innate talents should indulge in Deep work, from time to time.
Major benefits of deep work
It is not without reason so many icons and stalwarts endorse the philosophy of deep work. Its major advantages include:
Lets you evade distractions
We often do not realize how multiple distractions in life and career prevent us from being productive and utilizing our full potential. For example, you may keep checking on your phone in between work to get social media feed updates. This causes some amount of distraction and impacts productivity. Such distractions can be detrimental to people involved in critical assignments and projects, for sure.
Helps you learn new things/concepts
When you want to learn something well, resorting to Deep work methodology is recommended. This method lets you stay focused for a long and your brain is able to analyze, grasp and memorize things better. You concentrate on a specific task at a time and the result is better and faster learning. It becomes easier to fathom complex theories and ideologies by using this methodology, say its proponents.
Better execution of learned skills
We have usually seen that people resorting to deep work philosophy are able to execute things they learn better than others. It is quite logical. When you learn something minus distractions and interruptions, your brain memorizes it very well. At the time of practicing or execution, you perform better.
It calms your mind
During Deep work, you become more of a recluse. As you take a break from other people and activities in life, your mind is no longer under the obligation to think and analyze a lot of things. You focus on one particular task for a period of time. This effectively soothes and calms down your mind.
Enhanced analytical and logical capability
When you break the chain of fixed working hours and set your mind on one task, you enhance your logical and analytical skills. Your mind is not preoccupied with many tasks. So, you can use its full capacity to analyze things in detail.
Offers you a positive mind-set
By indulging in heavy work, you either learn new things well or utilize your brain to come up with innovative ideas. Doing so can be productive and beneficial for your career and life, eventually. When you succeed in mastering a concept or developing an innovative idea, it feels good. You are able to develop a positive mindset and feel energized from within.
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Ways to incorporate deep work into your life and schedule
Over the years, many debates and discussions have taken place about the efficacy and relevance of Deep work methodology. There are thousands of followers of the philosophy along with several documented examples of its success. However, the truth is there is no single formula for people who are willing to embrace the concept. You need not fly to a remote, uninhabited island or desert to evade distractions and focus on something that interests you! Everyone has a unique situation in life, along with compulsions. The trick lies in tweaking your mind to turn away from distractions and attain focus when you need it.
Listed below are some tried and tested tips to indulge in Deep work, as per your situation and needs:
Pick a deep work philosophy
First, you need to select a deep work philosophy. Based on your lifestyle and career needs, one approach may work better than the others.
1. Rhythmic philosophy
This approach works when you are able to incorporate deep work in your life in a consistent, regular manner. In it, you keep a chunk of hours every day for heavy work. This may vary from 1 to 4 hours. Sticking to a fixed time every day is important here. This requires extensive time management.
2. Monastic philosophy
When you pick this method of deep work, you have to eradicate all types of shallow work from your life. Neal Stephenson, a noted science fiction writer evades using email and public speaking for heavy work needs. This makes it hard to contact him but one cannot overlook the fact that he has penned over 80 works in his prolific career. Incorporating the monastic philosophy is not possible for many.
3. Journalistic philosophy
It is meant for those who want a flexible iteration of Deep work methodology. This is ideal if you are in a job with shifting working hours. However, using this approach can be tedious at the beginning. Switching to heavy work mode at varying timings and on short notice may not be easy.
4. Bimodal philosophy
In this approach, a large chunk of time is set exclusively for deep work and the remaining hours are kept for doing other work. In fact, the Bimodal model is like a more flexible iteration of the monastic model. Heavy work gets priority over anything else in your schedule.
Rituals/ triggers help in engaging
People who engage in heavy work find using specific rituals helps them train their minds to disconnect themselves from others and shallow work. There is no fixed formula that works for everyone here. You can set an alarm to remind you of the timing when you should indulge in heavy work, for example. Some people find using a separate environment a better option. Listening to a specific genre of music may also help in setting the mood for some people.
Plan in advance
During deep work sessions, you should set focus on a major work/topic. These sessions are strictly not meant for dabbling with many things. So, it would be wise to pick the topic or subject before you begin the session every time. For the time, you will deal only with the chosen topic and nothing else.
Plan/set timing for shallow work
To ensure the success of your deep work sessions, you need to set the timing for so-called shallow works, too! It also depends on which heavy work model you pick, after all. Given the fact nearly everyone needs to get some mundane chores or regular, low-priority work accomplished, getting them done systemically does help. You may set timing for getting all such repetitive chores done per day. If possible, try to accomplish similar tasks within a time zone.
Reduce technological distractions
This is a prerequisite for engaging in deep work sessions successfully. Stop using checking email, social media accounts and mobile phones for the time kept for heavy work sessions. If you can’t switch off devices, putting them in silent mode will do. Make it a habit of using only the necessary tools and apps if your deep work involves staying online.
Evade taxing yourself
While engaging in deep work contributes to a growth mindset, you should not overdo things. After tackling long hours of analysis, studying and assessment, on top of shallow work, your brain needs a break! So, it would be prudent to keep a day in the week for indulging in relaxing activities. Your mind, just like the body needs a break and refreshment periodically.
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