I understand the value of deep work, the opportunity to truly focus and to create the space to do so. But I’m not sure I could give it the priority Cal Newport does.
That’s the point though, isn’t it? Deep work isn’t something you can do part time, and so this book leaves me with somewhat of a dilemma.
Newport does offer a number of models though – His own involves effective blocking out of time where no distractions are allowed; going to a retreat may be useful for those whose day-to-day will never be distraction free; and separating the pattern of the year so that interacting activities (eg teaching) are only for part of the year is also an option.
At the start is a very insightful story about how Newport trained himself. Building the habit to sink into deep work is another challenge many of us have because distractions feed the gratification monkey as we try to push ourselves over the initial hurdles and into the state of flow and concentration. Newport describes a building design that an architect once described to him. Two preparatory chambers allow users to firstly socialise and discuss the work ahead, then gather all the necessary resources from an uber-library before finding oneself in an inner sanctum of silence, motivation and time. I want one!
Deep work is valuable, rare and meaningful. You don’t need to sell me on this but I appreciated the first half of the book for comprehensively making the case. The challenge is there, for all of us – if deep work is so good, how much of our lives should we spend on it?
This remains my key question. Newport’s assertion about how much he got done when he really focused is impressive and he acknowledges that maybe he pushed a little too hard and the year was quite exhausting.
He celebrates the boundaries – coming home and reading in the evening, finding time to relax and be with this family. If you’ve read CEO of Me, then you’ll know that folk suit different styles in the life/work blend. He actively acknowledges family as an important element to the thinking about deep work and where to fit it, and made me question whether it was fair to accuse him of having no idea what it is like to be the ‘on call’ parent.
And I wonder about the rules, because they made me think – what is life for?
- #work deeply
- #embrace boredom
- #quit social media
- #drain the shallows
But I won’t dismiss the concepts straight away because I acknowledge that there is a need for deep work in my life – if not at the extremes practiced by Newport.