I should say that this book is my gem in 2018. I read this book in early 2018, tried to practice some of the rules, and re-read again this one. So, I really think I should try to summarize this book for myself.
Before 2018, I found myself so difficult to focus on a task for a long time (throughout 30 minutes, I check my phone or wandering the internet while trying to finish a task). Even, finishing a book took me a lot of effort. Sounds familiar? A lot of people suffer from this condition in this digital and high-connectivity era: a new kind of attention-deficit-disorder. Or in another word: “craving for distraction”. It’s scary, isn’t it?
Despite being a computer scientist and professor, Cal Newport is extremely against the digital world and high-connectivity. In this book, he campaigns the term and rules of ‘Deep Work’. This deep work has helped him to be a high achiever in his professional life, without sacrificing his personal and family life.
As he explains: High-quality work produced = (time spent) x (intensity of focus). Majority of us will do overtime to produce a good result for our work (although a lot of people do overtime just for the sake of ‘fake productivity’). Newport campaigns that we should increase our ‘intensity of focus’ instead of time spent to produce the same result.
He divides this book into 2 parts:. In part I, he explains WHY we need to practice deep work. He convinces (and bought me!) that deep work is valuable, rare, and meaningful to balance our professional and personal lives. In part II, he explicates HOW we could start practicing deep work. Some of the ‘rules’ are quite extreme, but he explains a good reason behind it.
Here are the rules of deep work:
#1 Work Deeply. Move beyond good intentions to do a deep work. Routine and rituals are helpful to minimize the amount of our limited willpower! Example of some things that need to be decided before doing a deep work: where you’ll work and for how long; how you’ll work once you start to work; how you’ll support your work (coffee? light exercise? aromatherapy?).
Another important thing in mind is to shut down ourselves after work! This is important to recharge energy for the next workday. Moreover, we don’t have full energy after work, so the work we do in the evening is much less valuable.
#2 Embrace Boredom. Don’t take breaks from distraction, take breaks from focus! It is just natural now that we take a glance on our phones anywhere anytime: in the toilet, inside the subway/tram to our work, when finishing an important deadline. This is what Cal calls as ‘craving for distraction’. Embrace boredom to heal ourselves from such nasty craving. We could try several strategies, such as scheduling internet time (ikr, this is sooo difficult! But, let’s try together!). Another strategy is to meditate productively, e.g. take a walk, shower, on a tram/bus, anything that gives you time without the necessity to think . Use this time to think something important about your work/goal. Plan what to think ahead so you don’t just daydreaming.
#3 Quit Social Media. “Willpower is limited, and therefore the more enticing tools you have pulling at your attention, the harder it’ll be to maintain focus on something important.” (page 182).
Don’t use the internet to entertain ourselves! Use time outside of work as time meaningful for us: cuddling with fams, doing hobbies, put more thought into your leisure time! Choose some activities we would like to enjoy for the rest of our day outside work hours (this time is as important as work hours!). Cal suggests us to choose structured hobbies that will generate specific goals to fill our time.
#4 Drain the shallows. The ultimate advice from Cal is that we should try to classify a shallow vs a deep task. This would help us tremendously to focus on the few things that are most important to us. Some of his tips are:
- quantify the depth of every activity, this will help us to prioritize tasks
- schedule every minute of your day
- finish your work by five-thirty! This creates the sense of urgency and discipline ourselves to drain the shallows!
- Become hard to reach. Not every message comes to our e-mail or IM apps need to be replied.
This book helps me to read books again (28 books so far in 2018), write some papers, and enjoy boredom more (as a housewive). But, I admit that I still couldn’t totally drain the shallow social media in my life :)). Let’s see how far I could practice this deep work during thebook more challenging year of 2019!