BTU #96: Deep Work

In this interview, I take a look at Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, which provides information about how to work more productively and efficiently. I’ve found this book to be immensely helpful in my own work life and hope that it helps you as well.

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Show Notes

  • Cal Newport – #86
    • Secret to finding deeply fulfilling work is NOT about following your passion
    • Instead about getting really, really good at whatever it is you do
    • And that developing a craft – honing a specific skill set, will lead to the three ingredients of a fulfilling career, which is:
      • Autonomy
      • Competency
      • Relatedness (connection to others)
  • Deep Work
  • Special thanks to Ryan Guina – BTU #61 – cash money life & the military wallet
  • I’m just going to skim the surface
  • Talk about the 3-5 tips that have been most helpful to me these last few weeks
  • The book is FULL of other ideas – some that may resonate more for you.
  • So check it out.
  • Audio Book or Digital Book – do order through BTU helps offset the $120 it costs to keep this showing going every month. Full disclosure if you do a free trial of Audible, BTU makes z$15, if you buy a book through our link we get about $0.15… clearly we are crushing it financially Not really, but if you do either of those things, it means I lose less money on this show.
  • LOVED this book
  • HUGE impact on my productivity
  • Very excited to share this with you and hope it helps you in whatever you’re doing
  • Structure
    • Background and Deep Work for context
    • Tips
      • Email
      • Scheduling
      • Daily shutdown procedure
      • Sprints
      • Work-centric meditations
      • Free time
  • Focus on Deep work
  • What is deep work
    • How long would it take (in months) to train a smart recent college graduate with no specialized training in my field to complete this task?
    • If answer is less than a year… probably not incredibly deep work
    • May keep you busy, may make you feel momentum and feel like you’re making progress
    • Not the deeply skilled work that will set you apart and make you fulfilled
  • Balance of Deep and Shallow Work
    • Will always have shallow work
    • Writers, intellectuals may be able to detach for months to focus on their work
    • Most of us can’t do that
    • What is important though is maintaining an awareness of when you’re doing shallow work
    • “It’s difficult to prevent the trivial from creeping into every corner of your schedule if you don’t face, without flinching, your current balance between deep and shallow work, and then adopt the habit of pausing before action and asking, “What makes the most sense right now?”
    • Focusing on highest leverage item
    • “If you give your mind something meaningful to do throughout all your waking hours, you’ll end the day more fulfilled, and begin the next one more relaxed, than if you instead allow your mind to bathe for hours in semiconscious and unstructured Web surfing”
    • Might think this would be exhausting
    • Always pushing your mind to focus on the highest leverage & most strenuous activity
    • “One of the chief things which my typical man has to learn is that the mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is change—not rest, except in sleep.”
    • If you’re like me – some of the things that typically distract
      • Apps
      • facebook
      • Reddit
      • Email
    • I often find myself reaching for these things instincitlvely before i even realize it
    • Effort to keep from getting bored
    • Cal is a HUGE advocate of boredom
    • It’s restorative
    • It allows you mind to recoup
    • and allows your subconscious to solve problems in the background
    • Great idea in the shower or on a drive
    • But these things like Facebook, email, apps – they have a way of creeping into our lives
    • “Addictive websites of the type mentioned previously thrive in a vacuum: If you haven’t given yourself something to do in a given moment, they’ll always beckon as an appealing option.”
    • One way to help when it comes to these apps that often pose themselves as productivity boosting or necessary is a message Cal has:
    • “These services aren’t necessarily, as advertised, the lifeblood of our modern connected world. They’re just products, developed by private companies, funded lavishly, marketed carefully, and designed ultimately to capture then sellyour personal information and attention to advertisers”
    • Cal talk about how there is no way to increase your ability to conduct deep work unless you start to ween yourself off of these distractions
    • And so to help with this Cal advises to really be deliberate about which tools you let into your life.
    • Are they really helping you?
    • “The Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection: Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.”
  • EMAIL
    • “Schedule in advance when you’ll use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether outside these times. I suggest that you keep a notepad near your computer at work. On this pad, record the next time you’re allowed to use the Internet. Until you arrive at that time, absolutely no network connectivity is allowed—no matter how tempting.”
    • I’ve done this the last couple of weeks and been amazed
    • Cal talks about how even looking at your email distracts you for minutes and tens of minutes afterwards
    • this CONSTANT distraction takes a toll little of us realize in our daily work
  • SCHEDULE
  • Scheduling day before in 30 minute blocks
    • Schedule work day – each line 30 min, draw line down center. Block out all activities; provide overflow time. Assign task block and to right detail what tasks. Haveoverflow time allotted for email or something else. Ok to reschedule as many times as necessary throughout day
      • If you stumble on insight, pursue as long as necessary regardless of schedule. Point is to build habit of asking what is most important to work on
      • Evaluate depth by # of mos it would take a college grad to learn. Assign % of time for deep work and plan accordingly
  • SHUTDOWN
  • Fixed schedule productivity: don’t work past 5:30. Don’t offer excuses when declining opportunities and don’t offer consolation prizes
  • It’s essential to shutdown from work at the end of the day and give subconscious time to rejuvenate and work on problems. NO intrusion of work email or work website ready. Unaccomplished tasks will dominate attention. Daily shutdown ritual:
    • Check email – anything urgent?
    • Review to do list – anything urgent outstanding? (Ensuring plan in place will relax mind)
    • Review next 3 days of calendar – anything I’m missing
    • Set plan for tomorrow
    • Say “shutdown complete” – give mind permission to disengage
  • Schedule when I will be online (e.g. Every 15 min for 5 min) If I absolutely cannot work on offline activity without access to internet, impose 5 min wait and then reschedule internet time (don’t do it immediately)
    • Schedule online blocks in evening too. Need periods of boredom
  • SPRINTS
    • Roosevelt dash – once per week, set aside time and give self less time for deep work than you need. FORCE self to work more productively. Can expand frequency after a few weeks
  • MEDITATION
    • Productively meditate – 3x / week, take a walk and think about one specific problem. Keep coming back to it. Avoid distraction and beware of looping back over same points continuously.
  • FREE TIME
    • Need to plan free time with structured activities that exercise mind and truly rejuvenate – social networks and web shouldn’t be used for decompression and will fill any time left vacant

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