Assuming you’re a normal person, you probably have quite a list of things on your plate that is not deep work. That does not mean you don’t have to take care of it. I’m assuming you have to read and reply to email, and we all have to deal with a thousand other small things during a normal week.

We already reviewed the separation between shallow work and deep work on Monday. It is good to keep evaluating if you really should be doing the things you do. If you’re working with a team of people, there might be someone else perfectly able to do your job. Other chores might be more efficiently handled by getting an assistant.

However, there will always be a set of things you have to do. If we want to maximize the amount of time we spend on deep work, we need to effectively deal with shallow work.

Three important strategies:

  1. Batch and schedule your shallow work. Switching context is expensive, so you should try to group activities. Use your calendar (it’s a holy place, remember) as the place to estimate how much time your tasks are going to take. This both motivates to keep the pace and teaches your how much time you need for certain tasks.
  2. Set a limit to shallow work. Wise people have said that your calendar reflects your real priorities. If people expect you to do “real” work, this should be represented in your calendar by claiming as much space as you possibly can. Fit in the shallow work. This might mean that you need to say no to stuff in order to get your deep work done. I would call that a victory.
  3. Train and coach people you work with. Lots of shallow work is “created” because people don’t know how to handle stuff themselves. You could try to experiment with ways to teach people how to they can efficiently deal with things and who they should access, for example. Investing a couple of minutes could save you lots of time down the road.

Action steps for today:

  1. Schedule blocks of time for (smaller) tasks and email.
  2. For the smaller tasks today, ask yourself how you could invest in someone else so that you won’t be necessary the next time this type of question comes around.