The book that gave me back an old friend and the ability to do my best work.

Recently, I heard from a dear friend I hadn’t spoken to in years. We rekindled our relationship and I’ve just enjoyed a wonderful weekend with his family. He explained that Deep Work, a book by Cal Newport, had prompted him to get back in touch. Intrigued, I sought out a copy.

With the strapline ‘rules for success in a distracted world’, Newport’s premise is that if you want to achieve anything meaningful, you have to make time and space. Citing Carl Jung’s lakeside retreat, JK Rowling’s absence from social media while writing, and Bill Gates’ ‘think weeks’, Newport proposes that ‘deep work’ is crucial and yet endangered by social media, emails and the internet. So what does he suggest?

1. Work deeply

Working deeply involves freedom from interruptions, which each take at least 30 minutes to recover from, so Newport suggests four philosophies – the monastic : a complete rejection of all distraction; the bimodal: setting aside certain days, weeks or months for deep work; the rhythmic: 90 minutes of concentrated work first thing each morning; and the journalistic philosophy: fitting deep work around your schedule.   

2. Embrace boredom

Our brains have become addicted to the constant distraction of social media, so Newport recommends scheduling breaks from deep work and only allowing internet access during those breaks. He recommends the same during down time, arguing that ‘deep relaxation’ is just as important as ‘deep work.’

3. Quit social media

This is the rule my friend followed to the letter – seeking out real connections instead of instant gratification online. Newport asks us to identify what makes us happy and only engage with those tools that deliver happiness. He suggests quitting each social media channel for 30 days, unannounced, and assessing how much you missed each one.

4. Drain the shallows

Squeezing out shallow work by compressing the time available is Newport’s final rule – whether it’s a four-day week or a hard finish time each day – the important work gets prioritised and there is less time for shallow work.

My thoughts? I have a good friend back in my life for which I am truly grateful. And I now split my week into two parts, protecting two consecutive days a week for the deep work that’s required for my Masters . I do the same with each day, protecting my mornings for writing and only engaging in shallow work once I’ve met my goals for that day. It’s a work in progress, but it’s already making a huge difference. I highly recommend carving out some ‘deep work’ time to read this book.

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Katie Treggiden Design Journalist

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