What is deep work?
Deep work is a concept by Cal Newport in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
Deep work is a highly effective way of being productive which focuses on harnessing
your concentration on engaging tasks that move the needle rather than being filling
your time with busy work that doesn’t go beyond the surface.
But even if you understand the concept of deep work, it isn’t easy to immediately
incorporate it into your life.
Here are 5 strategies to effectively harness the power of deep work into your life.
Choose your philosophy
There are 4 philosophies of deep work that each have pros and cons. Choose what works
for you depending on your lifestyle, work, and general schedule. Don’t be afraid to
experiment before you commit to one.
- The Monastic Philosophy - focus almost all your working hours on deep work, and eliminate as many
- The Bimodal Philosophy - arrange your year, month, or weeks into chunks of “deep work” and shallow work
- The Rhythmic Philosophy - divide each day into deep work and shallow work sessions. This helps you enter into a sort of daily rhythm.
- The Journalistic Philosophy - fit in deep work wherever you can into your schedule. This is good for people who have irregular schedules.
Create a Deep Work Routine
Having a consistent routine for your deep work sessions will help you get into the zone faster.
Keep the following in mind as you create your deep work ritual.
- Location - decide where you will work. Opt for a quiet, distraction-free area.
- Duration - determine exactly how long you will devote to deep work
- Structure - plan what your deep work session will look like. For example, will you put your phone on airplane mode? Are you allowed to pick up the phone? How will you measure a successful session?
- Requirements - Determine what you need to have a productive deep work session. Maybe you require headphones, a cup of coffee, and a notebook. Having them ready before you start deep work will increase your productivity.
Sometimes a routine isn’t enough to motivate you to get into the ‘deep work zone’,
especially for an especially challenging or creative task. That's when Cal Newport
suggests trying a “grand gesture”, or a radical change to your normal environment.
This increases the perceived importance of the task and offers you the extra boost
of motivation you might need to avoid the tendency to procrastinate. A grand
gesture can be anything from deciding to work at a coffee shop or traveling
to the countryside to work on your novel.
Work with others
Working with others, discussing roadblocks, and bouncing ideas off each other
is an extremely effective way of solving problems. You can decide to have
intentional conversations that are engaging and thought-provoking and then
return to a solo deep work state or set a time to deep work together.
Contrary to popular belief, rest is productive. Allowing your conscious mind to rest lets your subconscious work through complex problems and come up with better solutions. In addition, resting also helps you get better at deep work. Resting improves your ability to focus your attention on high priority tasks by giving your mind a break. Keep in mind, briefly checking your emails - no matter how quick - does not allow for true rest.