Let’s get right to the point: bouncing between your inbox, pointless meetings, and group chat notifications is no way to get ahead in today’s information economy.
These are markers of busyness not productivity. They won’t help you to deepen your writing practice, master a programming language, or grow your business. In fact, these activities won’t aid you in any number of the ambitious goals you’ve set for yourself.
Instead, succumbing to these attention traps leads you off the path of excellence and down the road of mediocrity. To be truly exceptional at the work you do, and to gain recognition for it, you’ll need to adopt a different strategy entirely.
Enter “deep work”.
The concept was coined by Cal Newport, a renowned author and computer science professor at Georgetown University, in a 2012 blog post and expanded upon in his 2016 bestselling book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. By Newport’s definition, deep work refers to:
“Professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
This likely isn’t the form of work that naturally fills your day. On the contrary, if you aren’t intentional about how you spend your time, your work hours slip away towards activities that Newport refers to as “shallow work”:
“Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create new value in the world and are easy to replicate.”
In the present and future, excellence won’t be achieved by scratching the surface. As information expands and shifts, keeping up involves learning hard things quickly and applying that knowledge to produce work that’s exceptional.
The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy.
This is precisely what deep work will help you accomplish. As Newport puts it “the ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”
This is an actionable guide based directly on Newport’s strategies in Deep Work. While we fully recommend reading the book in its entirety, this guide distills all of the research and recommendations into a single actionable resource that you can reference again and again as you build your deep work practice. You’ll learn how to integrate deep work into your life in order to execute at a higher level and discover the rewards that come with regularly losing yourself in meaningful work.
Navigate the Complete Guide to Deep Work
Learn How to Practice Deep Work
Many of us have forgotten how to focus deeply on a single task, or never really learned to in the first place. In school you may have done well enough by practicing mostly shallow work on a day-to-day basis, with the occasional deep work session a few times per semester to write a last-minute paper or cram for a final exam.
Learning how to practice deep work requires you to be more intentional than you’ve ever been in sitting down regularly to concentrate on high-impact tasks. These strategies will help you select your preferred form of deep work, build a routine from scratch, and provide operating principles and tactics for embracing the power of directed focus.
Choose Your Deep Work Strategy
While you may be convinced of the value of deep work, you may be unsure of how to implement it in your life. Newport describes four different types of deep work scheduling you can choose from: