On the heels of Cal’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You comes Deep Work. If we agree with Cal that becoming good at rare skills is the way to build career capital – then how do we go about doing that? The answer is focusing on deep work, and mitigating shallow work.
You can read the two books as if they are one. That’s pretty much what I did. There are fewer surprises in Deep Work than So Good, but the ideas are outlined very very wellWe’re on the path of the craftsman, and what makes a craftsman better is deliberate practice. Spending time on the activities that make us more valuable and stretch us to our limits.
Most humans can only work at their maximum mental capacity for about four hours. And you’ll not likely get that until you’ve trained your mind to do it.
Learn how to be bored anytime, so that you can combat distractions easily when the time for focus is needed.
Going deep can take many shapes: the monastic philosophy (refusing anything that would get in the way of deep concentration,) the bimodal philosophy (going monastic for a stretch then returning to a normal routine,) the rhythmic philosophy (making sessions of deep work habitual, the most practical for many people,) or the journalistic philosophy (mastering context-switching so you can go deep instantly as time allows.)
Ignore inspiration; instead find your philosophy of deep work and with enough time ‘inspired work’ will occur during those efforts.
Make time for focus the same way we like to take time away from distraction. “Going offline” can be so appealing, but has way less value compared to prioritizing time to really make strides on hard problems.
- Productive meditation: learn to think on problems while running, walking the dog, or doing dishes.
- Keep a scoreboard for the deep work you demand of yourself
- Add a shutdown ritual to the end of your work
- Schedule every minute of your day, then use it as a guide (not as a rule.)
- Do the shallow work better too – so that you can do less of it. In particular, write better emails.
Deep Work by Cal Newport, part of my 2017 Reading