My work is always better when I am alone and follow my own impressions. – Claude Monet
In 1593 and 1606, due to plague in London, when theaters were mostly closed, Shakespeare during the period of quarantine wrote King Lear, Macbeth etc. Similarly in 1665, bubonic plague was raging in London, A Trinity College fellow, Isaac Newton, had to go home and from there he discovered gravity. George R. R. Martin, due to Covid-19 quarantine, will be completing the much awaited book, The Winds of Winter. There are various instances when some of the greatest pioneering work in every field was done during the period of ‘Self-isolation’. So the question arises, did the greatest minds flourish in self-isolation?
Probably yes! Time in isolation can lead to greater things. Apart from talent, knowledge and potential, the factor that has played a key role in all such individual’s success journey is their ability to perform ‘Deep Work’. But what is ‘Deep Work’?
The book ‘Deep Work, Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World’ written by author Cal Newport, advocates the importance of doing ‘Deep Work’ in our contemporary times for producing valuable output. He defines ‘Deep Work’ as –
Deep Work: Professional activities 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.
Cal Newport explains that it is important to emphasize the pervasiveness of ‘Deep Work’ among influential individuals and why today we are rapidly forgetting the value of doing ‘Deep Work’. Today most of the ‘Knowledge workers’ like Doctors, Scientists, Lawyer etc. jobs involve thinking and solving complex problems but due to advent of our smartphones, working culture and networking tools, we have lost the ability to do ‘Deep Work’.
Why ‘Deep Work’ is Becoming Rare?
We are living in the era of connectivity where one is expected to reply to emails urgently, attend office meetings and connect to clients via phone or messages and also we are working in open-offices where every colleague would bounce his/her ideas every 10 minutes which impedes our ability to focus and concentrate for a long period. Our ability to do ‘Deep Work’ is also struggling against our addiction to smartphones which is constantly buzzing with never ending notifications of WhatsApp, Facebook posts and tags, Instagram and many more infotainment websites notifications to which we all are hooked.
Thus, our ability to do ‘Deep Work’ is becoming rare because of such ubiquitous culture as we are living in state of fragmented attention, where we cannot accommodate ‘Deep Work’ which requires long periods of uninterrupted concentration.
Why Deep Work is Valuable and Meaningful?
With the increasing number of people, limited number of opportunities and advent of automation of jobs, the new mantra for survival and success is the ability to quickly master hard things and the ability to produce work of elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. These two core abilities depend on our ability to perform ‘Deep Work’ and if we cannot master this foundational skill, we will struggle to learn hard things and fail to achieve our potential.
Rules for Deep Work
Today, we cannot afford to completely cut-off ourselves from society or quarantine ourselves like other did because our jobs, families or other limitations which will not allow us to disappear completely but the Author prescribes these disciplines which can potentially increase our productivity.
Discipline 1 # Focus on the Wildly Important Goal
First, identify a specific time and small number of ambitious outcomes, which you want to pursue within such hours. Create a time table at home or maintain work diary during office hours and identify specific goals which would return tangible and substantial personal or professional benefits.
Discipline 2 # Track your time
Second, start measuring regularly the time spent in a state of ‘Deep Work’ during which you dedicated your time with utmost concertation toward your wildly important goal. If you sincerely are doing ‘Deep Work’, it will create a steady stream of enthusiasm.
Discipline 3 # Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
Third, maintain a physical record of scoreboard that displays your ‘Deep Work’ hour count. Review your progress weekly and schedule your work hours in advance and strictly stick to the schedule.
A Word of Caution: Embrace boredom
Initially, you will struggle to achieve deep level of concentration as our brain requires training to integrate such habit into our behavior. The only way to keep going is to embrace boredom but if you on slightest hint of boredom, lose concentration and pick up your smartphone or break the pattern, then the loop of concentration will be broken. The world of Internet and applications are seductive and you won’t even realize how much of your precious time will be wasted. (Schedule in advance when you will use the phone). When bored, take 5-10 minutes break preferably in nature like a walk, meditation or other relaxing activity.
Every successful person would attribute his/her success to time management and unflinching dedication toward the goal but today shallow work is increasingly dominating our time and attention. It might be extreme to say but try to schedule every minute of your day and be a disciple of depth in this shallow world. Rest assured, you will be successful and satisfied if you perform ‘Deep Work’.
Before saying Adieu….
Deep Work requires hard work and drastic changes in your habits and lifestyle. Only if you have strong will power and faith to sidestep the comforts and embrace boredom, then only you will dedicate significant time to deep endeavors or you might end up binge watching shows on Netflix, constantly refreshing Facebook feed or watching TikTok videos which we all are doing now.
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