Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!
Make sure you have time in your schedule for this book. It is also good to take notes as you read as it might get a bit too much to take in and retain.
What keeps you busy is different from what work you do. You might be spending the whole day at work and feel like you have been very busy, but what work did you do? Busyness is not a proxy for productivity. From answering emails and chats to looking at those Instagram feeds in between work we really don’t know how the workday flies. According to Cal there are two types of work conscious deliberate self improving work — deep work and shallow work — the one we are all currently doing now. According to Cal shallow work won’t help you in gaining mastery over your work. Creating and learning new things requires deep work. Deep work is what you do to solve difficult problems. It is the kind of creative work which will keep you employed in the current economy which is moving slowly towards automation.
Most people end up doing shallow work daily due to various reasons. In today’s world full of distractions; be it the open office or the lure of social media it is really difficult to do deep work. To keep one’s mind focused on something for a long time is becoming an actual skill. This is the reason I go off of Facebook for months so that I can concentrate on reading more and learning new things without the distractions of the latest meme.
There are three ways to do deep work: one is to go complete offline by eliminating all distractions (monastic approach), second is have long periods of exclusion during the day free for deep work (bimodal approach), or go into deep work mode for like 2 hours whenever you find time (rhythmic modal approach). For me, the third approach works the best. For someone who gets distracted very quickly the rationing of time for deep work helps to make good use of the time. As most of my reading happens on my phone I turn off notifications, and read the books on my phone. It is not easy and your brain would keep asking you to check on the social media initially it would a strain not giving into these whims, but it will get easier with practice.
How do you make sure you are doing deep work?
Here the book postulates a 4 step process:
a) set measurable goals which are the most important for you b) act on leading measures c) keep a scorecard d) create a cadence for accountability.
Example: You want to get started on writing. A measurable goal could be publishing 2 posts on Medium every month. Leading measure can be putting 1 hour for writing in your schedule every day. Scorecard is to track if you are being able to follow on leading measures and actually publishing 2 posts every month. For accountability tell a friend to keep asking you about it.
Have a fixed time when you are allowed to check the internet or a fixed time for deep work. For me it is the other way, I need fix time to get deep work done. Multitasking does not equal productivity. I have learned this hard way. But due to some reason I have always failed to focus on a single task for a long period of time. Hence as mentioned earlier the rhythmic approach helps.
Trick your brain to run on autopilot.The trick is to think while doing tasks that your brain could do with minimum effort. For example repetitive tasks like taking a bath or brushing your teeth, or taking a long walk through a place that you are familiar with. Run these thoughts through but don’t let shower time thoughts be just that. For those of you who like me get thoughts just before you sleep it would be great to just note it down, or better record it on the phone and play it the next morning. Hearing your groggy voice tell you what to do the next day could be a bit weird, but it trust me, it get’s the job done.
For most of us deep work is no secret revelation or ground breaking discovery, it is something that most of us have grown up doing, remember all the time we studied for the exams or learnt a new sport or to playing a new instrument — it was all deep work. An easy way to go about understanding the importance of deep work would be to look at the life of any person who you think is successful and map out how they got there and you would see that even those whom you considered to be overnight superstars had spent years doing deep work.