- Joy O'Toole
The beginning of a new year is a great time to work on your productivity. While there are many resources—books, articles, TED talks, etc.—it is often hard to determine which ones are helpful. Will a new morning routine help you do more work? Or, perhaps it’s your Sunday rituals that need to change. Maybe you should lock your cell phone in a drawer for hours a day or purchase an app that blocks the Internet. Are you planning your time well, or should you focus more on your energy?
The promise of being more productive often lures me into reading yet another book or article. Until I read Deep Work, by Cal Newport, however, all of the ideas seemed to be more add-on systems than a way to rework how I think and do things.
In Part I of his book, Cal Newport proposes that many people spend too much time doing “shallow work”—working through email, going to meetings, making phone calls, etc. He argues that, while important, they take up such a large percentage of our working days that we no longer have the time and energy to do “deep work." We think we are multi-tasking, but, in reality, we are merely switching our focus over and over, which cripples our ability to work well.
He then goes on to discuss what deep work is and why it’s important. It helps us grow in our jobs and allows us to move ahead with our goals. However, deep work requires focused attention and thinking. If we are constantly distracted, we will not be able to produce ideas, write books and articles, and do the creative work necessary to break new ground in our industries.
Part II is especially helpful as Dr. Newport gives concrete advice and tips on exactly how to create more time for working deeply and then to use that time well. From learning how to focus again to not taking work home to being intentional in scheduling your time, Newport has rules and examples to help implement these routines and make them part of your day.
If you want to improve your ability to do better work, I highly recommend reading Deep Work. It’s one of the best books I've read on productivity for those of us who want to increase our capacity for meaningful work and creativity in our daily lives. If you'd like to learn even more about focus, time management, and productivity, try one of the titles on If You Liked Deep Work.