It is highly unlikely to read anything about working habits of current and previous well-known people without stumbling onto the Deep Work trend. The new book released by Cal Newport about Deep Work contributes to the definition and explanation of using this concept. Cal Newport’s blogs on the practice of deep work are followed by thousands of readers, including me. His work habits of deep work opened my eyes on how to capitalize on the secrets of creating deep work environments, resulting in achieving more in my daily routine work without putting in long hours. Deep work creates high impact results compared to shallow work: constant interruptions from emails (social media), telephones, and people.
Newport goes into detail explaining the extremes of people who isolate themselves to focus intensely on their work like a laser beam. One author reserved a plane ticket to fly to Japan, spending around $4,000 and 36 hours of flying time during which he finished writing his book by the time he landed back in the US. These 36 hours of travel resulted in his accomplishing his goal.
When J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, was finishing the Deathly Hallows, the seventh book in the Harry Potter series, she started to have constant interruptions from the window cleaner who had just arrived to the house and her kids. She immediately thought about finding a place to focus on her writing. She checked into a suite at the five-star Balmoral hotel located in downtown Edinburgh. When the first day of writing went very well, she went back several times to finish the last of the Harry Potter books. Checking into the hotel created an environment of deep work, allowing her to have uninterrupted work time as well as inspiration to finish the book. The Balmoral hotel is a luxurious hotel with Victorian style architecture located just a few blocks from Edinburgh Castle, which may have been the model for the Hogwarts School for Wizards.
Donald Knuth, a great computer scientist who works at Stanford, focuses on analyzing algorithm performance. He is famous for his idiosyncrasies and for not being able to be reached as he put this on his website:
I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I’d used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime. Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. I try to learn certain areas of computer science exhaustively; then I try to digest that knowledge into a form that is accessible to people who don’t have time for such study.
When you decide to work without interruption for at least two hours at a time, the benefits are multiplied. As Newport describes deep work in his book, we need to take breaks from deep work not to take breaks from distraction.
As I am moving forward to establish sprints of deep work around my week work schedule, I will be looking into coffee cafes, libraries, parks, universities, hotel lobbies, and even vacation spots to produce more. Upon adopting my deep work strategy, I will check my email less with only specific times, focusing on 90 minutes of deep work in the morning and 90 minutes of deep work in the afternoon. This will give me around 15 hours of deep work per week, shy by 5 hours from Newport’s goal.
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