I read the book Deep Work and found it a pretty nice read. I will try to summarize some of the main points that I found good.
What is shallow work?
It is non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.
What is deep work?
Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.
Ideas from the book
The central idea in the book is that to produce anything of significant value you have to batch hard but important work into long, uninterrupted chunks.
He mentions although deep work is very rare and valuable the environments at work don’t promote it. He criticises Facebook’s open office plan saying that it diminishes all possibility of any deep work. He advocates something called a Bionic office.
He says that you can’t perform deep work for more than 4 hours in a day and then you have enough time for shallow work (replying to emails, meetings, browsing internet, social media). So it’s good to get the deep work done early in the day.
a) He also advocates something called fixed-schedule productivity where you stop working say after 7 pm until next day. That helps drain the shallow things from his schedule.
b) He mentions how he has been successful publishing papers even though he doesn’t work past 5pm on weekdays (starts at 8am) and on weekdays.
c) He mentions how fixed-schedule productivity can help you recharge for the next day and how in work done after work hours you are anyway not very productive.
Embrace boredom - a) He mentions that when we are stuck on hard problem and can’t make progress, we quickly turn to browsing and other shallow work.
b) That is because we can’t embrace boredom. This is also true say when you are waiting for a bus for 5 mins and you quickly pull out your mobile phone.
c) So what he instead mentions is something like a Pomodoro technique or stipulated time (say 45 mins) called internet blocks for which you don’t check the internet when you are working on something. He says take brakes from focus, not from distraction.
Quit Social Media - This is a more radical idea though I will still mention his point of view here.
He says that most people take an any-benefit approach to social media whereas we should be taking more of a craftsman approach.
a) The any-benefit approach: you’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it. The problem is this approach ignores negatives.
b) The craftsman approach: identify the core factors that determine success and happiness for you, adopt a tool only if its positive impacts outweigh its negative impacts.
I feel I have to read it a couple of times more and put these into practice, which is the hard part because of bad habits.