We live in a world full of distractions. With the latest new show on Netflix calling your name, how can you expect to work with intense focus? Cal Newport answers this question in his new book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. It is possible to produce quality work while surrounded by the daily chaos of life.
The definition of Deep Work is as follows: “Professional activities performed in the state of distraction free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to the limit. These efforts screen new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
Let’s now dive into 25 key ideas from the book.
The Top 25 Golden Nuggets from Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
1. Deep work is necessary to wring every last drop of value out of your current intellectual capacity. (If you’re not 100% focused, do you really think your results will be reflective of what you’re capable of?)
2. There are many ways to discover that you’re not valuable in our economy. (A good factor would be the amount of money you’re currently making.)
3. To succeed you have to produce the absolute best stuff you’re capable of producing – a task that requires depth. (True depth will result in a incredible outcome.)
4. 3 to 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, produces valuable output. (It’s amazing what can be accomplished in a few hours!)
5. If you can’t learn, you can’t thrive. (You earn what you learn.)
6. If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive – no matter how skilled or talented you are. (You can’t sit around and gloat about how great you are and expect things to happen.)
7. If you’re comfortable going deep, you’ll be comfortable mastering the increasingly complex systems and skills needed to thrive in our economy. (Going deep isn’t easy but it’s crucial for success.)
8. Interruption, even if short, delays the total time required to complete a task by a significant fraction. (Emails, social media, that coworker or employee that always wants to tell you something, etc.)
9. Big trends in business actively decrease people’s ability to perform deep work. (Distractions are king in today’s society.)
10. Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not. (If it’s clear that it doesn’t matter, then don’t worry about it.)
11. Deep work should be a priority in today’s business. But it’s not. (How often have you heard it being talked about?)
12. We live in a world where anything internet related is understood by default to be innovative and necessary. (The internet has literally changed the world but it shouldn’t be your all and all.)
13. Human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging. (How often are you actually working deeply in something?)
14. To build your working life around the experience of “flow” produced by deep work, is a proven path to satisfaction. (Flow is defined as “the mental state of being completely immersed in a activity.”)
15. People will usually respect your right to become inaccessible if these periods are well defined and well advertised. Then once outside these stretches, you’re once again easy to find. (Don’t be afraid that being unavailable will hurt. Give a heads up to the people that need to know about your absence.)
16. There’s no correct deep work ritual – the right fit depends on both the person and the type of project pursued. (Experiment, experiment, experiment.)
17. Sometimes to go deep, you must first go big. (Going big can lead to where you want to go deep.)
18. When you work, work hard. When you’re done, be done. (If you’re constantly trying to “work” throughout the day you probably haven’t done any deep work.)
19. The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained. (Having ADHD makes this even more of a challenge.)
20. You’ll struggle to achieve the deepest levels of concentration if you spend the rest of your time fleeing the slightest hint of boredom. (It’s ok to be bored sometimes. Just let it happen.)
21. Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction, it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate. (In the world we live in, on-demand distraction is constantly available to us.)
22. Schedule in advance when you’ll use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether outside these times. (Awesome idea! This is a very tangible nugget that I will be implementing.)
23. Your mind can quickly retain lots of detailed information – if it’s stored in the right way. (Find a memory retainment method that works for you and continually improve on it.)
24. Your ability to concentrate is only as strong as your commitment to train it. (It’s up to you!)
25. If you want to eliminate the addictive pull of entertainment sites on your time and attention, give your brain a quality alternative. (Find something other than the internet to give you a break from the internet!)
My Personal Takeaway from Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
So this whole concept of Deep Work really has me thinking. It makes me realize how distracted I can be when trying to accomplish something. I’ve cut out Netflix from my life but I have found myself trying to be productive while watching a Pittsburgh Steelers game. This never results in anything productive.
I’ve also realized that performing deep work doesn’t have to take up a ton of time. If I actually give 100% focus and effort to something that requires it in the first place, I will get it done so much faster than if I give 50%.
There’s a myth that I admit to believing. “You always need to be accessible.” This is so not true. I feel like this is one of the main reasons why people feel like they can’t perform deep work for an extended amount of time. Use Takeaway #16 to your advantage!
Social media can be a blessing and a curse. The ability to share, quite literally, with the world what you have to say is pretty amazing, but scrolling through your Facebook feed can be such a time killer. By the way, make sure to like the Entrepreneur Reads Facebook page if you haven’t already!
Breaking away from this habit requires self-discipline, especially for me. I’ve found apps like AppBlock and ClearLock ease this ability.
Here’s the bottom line. Deep work is possible for anyone willing to free their surroundings from distractions and refrain from the internet if it’s not required. Setting up strategies ahead of time will ease you into making this an everyday habit!