“Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy 1. The ability to quickly master hard things. 2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.” Cal Newport
Anything that can assist us improving our skill in effectiveness is of value. Even though I consider myself a bit of an effectiveness guru there is always plenty of opportunities to learn more and I welcome it. In whatever paths we pursue, being effective will result in greater success and a happier pursuit in life.
This book not only gave me new thoughts, ideas, practices, and perspectives on how I can sharpen my effectiveness but gave me a friendly jab. A reminder as to where I’ve let things slip and inspiration to further improve my game.
Cal Newport has written a book on productivity. In an attempt to scratch his own itch, he realised that it has become harder and harder for people to master what they wish to achieve due to the overwhelming detractions all around us. The focus of this book centers around how to cultivate “Deep Work” and the massive benefits that can be gained in doing so.
So what is deep work? Newport describes deep work as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. When we cultivate the skill that is conducive to deep work, we produce extraordinary results and in less time.
Newport describes the opposite of deep work as “shallow work.” These are those tasks that are non-cognitively demanding, repetitive, easy and of little or less value. They are those tasks we do in distraction. They pull us away from our ability to do deep work.
The attraction to doing shallow work is that it can make us feel like we are getting more done when in fact we are not. Deep work, on the other hand, can be uninviting because often the rewards of deep work can take longer to be realised.
In the first part of this book, he highlights the importance of deep work. I need no convincing of the massive benefits that result from having focus. I am also aware of how distractions in my life diminish my ability to do great work, nonetheless, it was still a refreshing reminder.
It is easy to find ourselves being pulled from left to right, like we are in a game of tug-of-war, by relatively mindless and unimportant things demanding our attention. The more attention these things suck from us the less time we have for what’s truly important. The experience of this life is bound by time and for that reason, if we are not effective in using our time we may be wasting it and the full opportunity of this gift of life we’ve been granted.
In the second part of this book Newport shares rules of reducing distraction and sharpening focus to help us win in the game of deep work. He highlights some very important and timeless productivity practices plus outlines new ideas more relevant for the age of information and technological distractions.
I love how he shares his thoughts and philosophy using real life stories. The examples are brilliant and really highlight and reinforce each point he makes. Research is used to illustrate the reasons behind why deep work is so critical and to put context to the practices he shares. There is plenty of introspection but also plenty of external evidence to support it.
Everyone can benefit and find value in this book. I think the key message for me is that if we want to live a deeply meaningful life we’ve got to remove the bull-shit, the distractions that are pretentious, unnecessary, of little reward or value, and learn how to harness focus.
I really think that focus is the key to living a great life. The best reason for this is because when we are focused we become purposeful with the use of our time. Even if what we focus on doesn’t end up aligning us with deeper meaning or fulfillment, time that is spent in focus is much greater than time spent in distraction.
For example, I could focus for 6 months on a project that I thought was important, without wasting time on trivial matters that were irrelevant to the project, and regardless of the outcome or success, I will still gain deep learnings and likely produce work of higher quality. In pursuit, I’d likely find more meaning and happiness.
If upon goal completion I realised that it wasn’t really as I was expecting the value of my time wouldn’t have been wasted. For deep work will always guide us better on the paths forward.
If on the other hand, I spent 6 months, dabbling in this project and spending time distracted by little, insignificant projects, jumping around among relatively meaningless tasks, I will likely find myself at the end of it all left with menial results.
We have cluttered our lives with irrelevant and unnecessary tasks to a point which now not only the quality of our work is affected but also the quality of our life. Inspired by Newport I came up with this definition for
Inspired by Newport I came up with this definition for deep happiness – an ability to be present without the distraction of the past or the future that with self-control and practice results in an improved quality of life. Effectiveness is being purposeful and that leads to happiness no matter the pursuit.
We are all so busy. Yes, there are tasks that are important, there are things that we have to do that are necessary despite our disinterest in doing them. There are thousands of more tasks, and increasingly so, that are unimportant, non-urgent, and don’t add any significant value to the quality of work we produce or the impact we wish to have on our lives or the world at large.
Newport explains that the skill of deep work is a dying breed and those that can manage to learn and remain focused will supersede those that don’t. If everyone out there is running around busy doing shallow work the quality of work will be average. Those that can focus on doing deep work will produce stand-out work that will put them in the spotlight and raise their chance of success.
This book is one to put on your reading list.
If this book sounds of interest you can purchase Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World here.
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