Deep Work Rules

According to Computer Science professor and author of the New York Times bestseller, Digital Minimalism, Dr. Calvin Newport, Deep Work is “the activity of focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.”

When in school and college, I spent so much of my time doing deep work. I didn’t have as many distractions and I had to master many new and difficult concepts all the time. Today, my work life is different. My work includes meetings, meeting requests, notifications, updates, and texts. I have to admit, I find it difficult to do deep work. But when I do, and I’m in the zone, it’s exhilarating.

I know many others are like me. They know that deep work rules, but don’t know the rules of deep work. So when I read the rules of deep work in this interview in the New York Times, I decided I will write about them, just so that I can re-emphasize them to myself. Perhaps you will also find these rules useful.
Here are Dr. Calvin Newport’s four rules of deep work.

  1. Work Deeply: This means we prioritize deep work. It’s not possible to find large blocks of time without distractions. So what we need to do is simply commit to deep work, every day, whatever the circumstances. Concentration, willpower and habit are all useful tools that encourage us to work deeply.
  2. Embrace Boredom: It’s okay to be bored. We need to experience boredom and not turn to some exciting new activity the moment we feel bored. Let’s NOT pick up a book, check email or glance at our phone as soon as we feel bored. When we think deeply about something, we can actually find it quite boring. If we don’t know how to tolerate boredom, we can’t handle the boredom associated with deep work.
  3. Quit Social Media: We need to be selective about the websites and apps we visit. I am not very active on social media, but it still has a grip on me. I don’t tweet or post too often. But I do scan through other people’s tweets and posts a bit too often. When we cut down time on Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, etc., we find more time for deep work.
  4. Drain the Shallows: We don’t allow shallow work to dominate our day. Shallow work is work that doesn’t require much concentration, like checking mail, scheduling calls and meetings. We can’t get by without doing some shallow work, but let’s not find ourselves doing shallow work all day.

Now that we know the rules of deep work, let’s commit ourselves to engage in more deep work.

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