Your ultimate job skill: Deep Work

Your ultimate job skill: Deep Work

“Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.”

Waris Hussain
Waris Hussain

Time is your limited resource. I'm pretty sure you've heard that. But, do you know that your attention is also a limited resource?

Attention capital theory suggests that attention is a limited resource that can be invested and managed like capital and those who use their attention wisely will be more successful.

But are we really investing it mindfully?

In today’s economy, modern work is making it more and more difficult for people to focus for extended periods of time. We find it hard to maintain our concentration on tasks that needs it. And believe it or not, it is hurting us way more than we think it is.

The ultimate solution to solve this problem: Deep work.

Deep work, as Cal Newport describes in his book, “Deep work”, is the ability to focus intensely on a task without distractions. This doesn’t just enhance the quality of your work but also improves the speed you finish it. Newport says that those who are able to cultivate this skill will thrive in their careers.

He also provides examples of successful individuals who have incorporated deep work into their careers, such as writer and programmer Paul Graham and philosopher Mortimer Adler. They went into “flow”, a state of intense focus and enjoyment that is often achieved during deep work leading to increased productivity and satisfaction.

Why does it work?

This practice works like a charm because neuroscientifically, deep work involves the formation of myelin, a substance that forms around brain circuits which makes it easier to perform a skill, through intense and focused practice. The deeper the focus, the easier it is to perform a task.

Deep work is like a muscle which means as you do more deep work, your ability to focus on a cognitively demanding task for an extended period of time will increase.

On the other hand, “Shallow work”, which Cal Newport uses for low-focused work is ineffective because rapid task switching leaves a residue of attention stuck on the previous task. The more intense the residue, the worse the performance.

So working on a single hard task for a long time without switching, minimizes the negative impact of attention residue from your other obligations, allowing one to maximize performance on one task.

This all makes perfect sense, right?
Wait for more.

If you are amidst growing your career, deep work can really help you succeed with flying colors. As it enables quick mastery of difficult skills and the ability to produce high-quality work faster.  Deep work is one of the best ways to maximize your creative potential—but it’s about more than just productivity. Ultimately, working deeply just feels good, and it can help you feel energized and empowered to accomplish challenging tasks each day.

To practice deep work, here are 4 main key points to keep in mind-

  • Establish clear goals
  • Set aside dedicated blocks of time for deep work
  • Minimize distractions
  • Prioritize valuable activities

Though achieving these can be difficult sometimes because it also involves establishing clear boundaries with coworkers and others while also eliminating unnecessary tasks. And with the work culture that today’s world follows it can be extremely hard.

Not just for individuals but deep work can also have positive effects on organizations. Companies that encourage and support deep work have seen a significant increase in innovation, productivity, and employee satisfaction. To foster a culture of deep work within an organization, leaders should establish clear goals and expectations, provide the necessary resources and support, and set a good example by practicing deep work themselves.

Deep work is the recipe for getting unstoppable. As with any new practice, adjust it to your own life. There’s no one-size-fits-all model of Deep Work. There’s only one way that works for you.

And once you find it, there will be no way back.

Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.
― Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

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Waris Hussain is a Digital Marketer and a Product Designer, who's driven by curiosity and learning, and wants to live a life full of meaningful moments!