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Deep Work

June 7, 2022

Dr Cal Newport points out in his book Deep Work the fact that as the gap between what technologies and people can do shrinks, a divide is brewing in the workforce. As time progresses, companies will be more inclined to 'hire' new computers over people to fulfill jobs. As more people will lose in an economy where many skills will be automated, the divide in the workforce between those who can perform Shallow Work and Deep Work will intensify.

Deep Work

Professional activities are performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes cognitive capabilities to their limits. these efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

Shallow Work

Noncognitive demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

Newport writes that in the New Economy, the core two capabilities that should be honed in order to prosper are:

  1. the ability to quickly master hard things
  2. the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of quality and speed.

In a culture of connectivity, it is far easier to play successful theatre than it is to actually create results. The path of least resistance almost always wins, so people keep demonstrating to others that they are constantly busy. They believe in open office plans, praise constant serendipity, answer emails straight away, and plan meetings after meetings. Without clear feedback, which is almost always the case, they fall back on what is most easy; wasting time, attention, and energy to perpetuate the idea of success while the organizations lose billions. Loss of productivity on the work floor due to distractions has been calculated to be equal to about 550 billion dollars a year, solely for the United States of America alone.

The author proposes that there are four degrees of limiting shallow work and transitioning to deep work:

The Monastic Philosophy

Radically minimizing shallow work obligations, completely without distractions. Forfeiting your communication availability. perhaps moving to a secluded undisclosed location.

The Bimodal Philosophy

Dividing time into top endeavors of the work. Leaving some for everything else for other people (shallow work).

The Rhythmic Philosophy (most popular)

A systematic approach to deep work on specific times and places. Sessions are planned out through time-blocking so as to conserve as much willpower for the task at hand.

Journalistic Philosophy

Fit deep work wherever you can on an ad hoc basis. This is however not a natural ability and training is required to pick up this skill.

In the app you can find all the recommended steps in this book.