Why Deep Work Matters in a Distracted World

From the moment we wake in the morning, we’re tempted. Reach for the phone. Check texts. Read email.

So, how do we get anything important done? Enter “Deep Work”.

 

The idea of ‘deep work’ is nothing new. The term was recently coined by Cal Newport, a professor, scientist, and author of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.” According to Newport, deep work is classified as ‘professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limits.’

“We have a growing amount of research which tells us that if you spend large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention—where your regular workflow is constantly broken up by taking frequent breaks to just check in with social media—that this can permanently reduce your capacity for concentration,” said Newport. Much of social media is specifically built to fragment your time.

Even a quick glance at Twitter or reviewing an email has a negative impact on your ability to focus on tasks. In fact, that one quick glance costs you about 15 to 20 minutes of attention loss. Our brains are simply not wired for that level of distraction. In addition to impacting our cognitive ability to get work done, it also concerns medical professionals, who are seeing increased rates of anxiety [and] other psychological issues among college students.

Here are some tactics to integrate the principles of deep work into your schedule:

  • Work deeply.  Newport created an equation to explain the intensity required of deep work. Work accomplished = (time spent) x (intensity)

  • Protect your time. Maintain a set of rituals and routines to ease deep work into your day more easily. Try implementing scheduling tactics into your workflow.
  • Train your brain to do nothing.
  • Quit swimming upstream. Decide for yourself what restrictions you can place on email and social media.
  •  Cut the shallow work. Endless meeting requests and instant email responses are turning knowledge workers into ‘human routers’.

 

By understanding how to distance ourselves from distractions and improve time management, we have a better chance to dive deeper into our thinking and reach new heights of productivity.

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