Deep work — Summary

This book explores the ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks.

Multitasking does NOT equal productivity!

Sophie Leroy’s (Univ. Minnesota) research showed that when we switch our attention from task A to task B, our attention stays attached to the first activity. This hurts our performance as we are only half-focused on the second task.

Other productivity killers: Being online and notifications

Even if a notification just pops up on your screen, it still derails your attention. Consciously you might still focus on what you were doing, but a part of your brain already noticed the notification and got distracted.

A 2012 study from the consulting firm McKinsey found that the average worker uses 60% of the time on online communication and surfing and just 30% answering emails.

Talking about emails, they are another big productivity killer as Tim Ferris can tell you. Instead of answering them as they arrive, just answer them once a day or once per week. Bundle tasks whenever you can.

Don’t be fooled, don’t think you are productive just because you are busy. Being busy with small tasks and distractions is what prevents us from true focus and productivity.

Methods to overcome roadblocks

The monastic approach

  • Eliminate all distractions and seclude yourself like a monk.

Bimodal approach

  • Set a clear defined long period of seclusion for work and leave the rest of your time free for everything else

Rhythmic approach

  • Use blocks, say, 90 minutes, and track your accomplishments.

Journalistic strategy

  • Take unexpected free time in your daily routine to do deep work.

Rewire your brain with productive meditation

Our brain is wired for distractions because distractions often posed threats and thus noticing them was essential for our survival. But nowadays the picture is different. We won’t die if we ignore our Facebook notifications, yet we get distracted, and our productivity drops because of many technology distractions.

Productive meditation can help out. Productive meditation is simply the act of focusing on a problem without letting our mind change subjects. This exercise can be done when we take a shower when we walk our dog and many other activities.

To start to ask yourself a question you want an answer for, like “What do I need to solve x?” Then think about it like you were doing a hardcore workout routine. This gradually will rewire your brain, remember that our brain is rewireable.

Give your mind the space it needs to relax

Divide your time into blocks whenever you can, plan your time in advance. Impose limitations on your work, for example, don’t check emails after a certain time. This will cultivate awareness about how you spend your time.

Plan your evenings and weekends around activities other than those involving Internet.

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Check out the book here.

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Also published on Medium.