Deep Work

I´m halfway through reading Deep Work by Cal Newport, a well known and regarded book. The concept of Deep Work is introduced as a concentrated cognitive and creative effort performed in a distraction free environment over long stretches of time. It is presented as opposed to Shallow Work, the type of effort performed in short bursts of time, generally of reactive nature (you respond to stimuli). Shallow Work is associated to well known activities in today´s environment: reply to email, respond to social media or messaging apps, attend meetings, etc.

Cal Newport makes the case that Deep Work produces more meaningful results than any other type of work, and therefore is more valuable for individuals (we feel better when we do Deep Work) and for society in general (as it is the most efficient way to make the world progress). But, paradoxically, Deep Work is rare, and more so everyday we bury ourselves in a rush of dopamine shots through social media and email.

My personal experience can attest most of the claims of the book (as probably most of you can). I start my day at 6.00am in a distraction free environment, and carve out 45min - 1 hour of time to code or write. It is now 6:50am on a Friday, writing this on the basement. I´ve managed to safeguard this Deep Work time. Whether I´m spending it in a way that makes the world progress is arguable (I know the last post was obscure!), but surely it contributes to me, and I´m betting that it will make a difference to others in the long run. It certainly develops my Deep Work muscle, something I would be scared of losing. Tests have proved that living in a multitasking, distraction prone environment produces a neurological inability to concentrate. Such profile, distraction junkie, ADD, will surely be one of this century´s most dreaded first world diseases.

But while I do start my days in the right state, then I jump to the workplace and I become the archetype of shallowness. A sequence of meetings, calls, emails, interruptions, urgent decisions haunt me the 11/12h I spend everyday in the office. Every week, though, I´m confronted with a relevant topic that would required deep work to sort out, to think through... those tasks end up aging in my to do list, looking at me everyday saying: I would have make a difference. In my struggle I´ve wondered whether my job is simply something else: to create an environment that facilitates my team´s Deep Work, not mine. But I resist that idea, as I would like to believe that I ended up here precisely through my ability to sort things out and think things through.

Thank God, Cal Newport´s book proposes a number of strategies to introduce Deep Work even in the most demanding environments, so here´s my commitment to apply those during this year. I highly recommend this book to anyone that relates to what I just described. I feel the topic is not only relevant but essential to our generation; a topic worth dedicating a number of deep sessions to. Go grab the book and give it a try during this weekend. See you next one.

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