Cal Newport argues that in order to thrive in a new economy, we need two abilities:

  1. The ability to quickly master hard things
  2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed

In our current world, there is so much that distracts us. We prefer snack sized news and short videos, basically anything that gives us quick shots of dopamine. In our work, we also seek methods and tasks that gives us just that: email, slack, and status meetings give us the feeling of being busy and accomplishing things.

Making time for deep work creates the playing field to develop and grow these abilities. It comes down to make physical and mental space to do real work which moves you forward, and becoming better at distinguishing real work from shallow work. Quality work and mastering hard things are simply not created by spending a couple of minutes here and there. Cal’s book is filled with examples from writers and creators who spent hours and hours behind their typewriters and computers to produce their biggest work.

To make things practical, I’d like to challenge you to think about the following questions:

  1. In your work, what are three type of tasks that you would define as “deep work”? Which work really moves you forward?
  2. What are typical activities that you do instead of the activities described at 1 you could trade in for more deep work?
  3. If you take a look at your schedule for today, how many hours are dedicated to “deep work” versus “shallow work”?

Getting better at understanding the difference between the two activities can be the start of changing the balance. We’ll take it from there.