The revolutionary “Deep Work” book
“Deep Work” book by Cal Newport is a great one and I encourage you to not only read this short summary but to grab the book and give it a try! It thoroughly changed my professional life and the way I am working in the last two years.
What is it all about? Cal Newport claims, that we all live in the shallow world, we all are dealing with loads of shallow tasks and struggling to really get focused. Shallow work – all those emails, disturbing phone calls, powerpoint presentations which should be made and so on. You know what I mean. This tasks, which one cannot avoid, but which actually don’t bring our work much forward. There are plenty of those during PhD and later on as well…
The clue of the book is, that we need to limit this shallow work as much as we can and try to find uninterrupted blocks of time for the real focused work, for the Deep Work.
Do you want to thrive… and be happy?
Cal Newport states, that the ability to focus and perform deep work is necessary to thrive:
“The deep work hypothesis: the ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”
Now, try to remind yourself of the moments of happiness in your recent life. When were you most happy, satisfied with yourself and with life? Really, do it now, before you read further. OK?
Some of your memories are probably connected with experiences, important events, but I’m sure the others are related to some achievements as well. Aren’t they?
The research carried out by Csikszentmihalyi and Larson using the so-called experience sampling method (ESM) proved that people define their mood as the best when their body or mind is stretched to the limits of what is possible when trying to complete a difficult and important task. Practically never positive emotions of rest and relaxation are as strong as the joy of hard working on something we see as important.
Can you agree with it?
What does it look like in practice?
The theory is the theory, now it’s time for some practice.
Deep work is not something that comes naturally to most of us.
In times when we are practically nonstop susceptible to hundreds of things that distract us, when communication „must” be immediate, and all messages have ASAP in the title, it’s really hard to be truly focused.
Theoretically, if we are not yet used to such work, we are not able to work in full concentration for more than half an hour, maybe an hour. We will always break away and switch our thoughts for a moment to something else. Some of us, researchers, perform better, but isn’t always space for improvement here?
In the book, you can find loads of information and tips about how to overcome the distractors attacking us from each side. It deals with topics such as willpower, rituals, workspaces… You will get familiar with the idea of the so-called 4 disciplines of execution.
And it is where the Deep Work Tracker comes into play.
Deep Work Tracker
The 4 disciplines of execution will help you to move from the idea of your goal to its implementation
1. Focus on the most important thing.
Choose one thing you want to work on that requires a state of concentration. One, the most important and ambitious result you want to achieve.
You will return to the next ones later.
2. Measure the process, not its results.
Document your work, take regular measurements. And measure the process, not its results.
Goal – to publish a number of scientific articles during the year. If you want to measure the results of your work, at the end of the year you will find that you have published fewer articles than you assumed, and it will be too late. In addition, this measurement means that you have to wait for the end of a certain period of time.
Instead, measure the process, for example, the number of hours spent in a given week on writing or publishing activities. You can compare these data on an ongoing basis, improve the results from week to week, and find and eliminate sources of problems on an ongoing basis.
3. Document your measurements.
Carry out the measurements and keep them clearly visible. Here you can use the Deep Work Tracker – it gives you space for tracking two things. It can be both professional: hours spent daily on a focused work, words written, papers read or whatever you need. You can also split the columns and use one of them for tracking your fitness activities, sleep patterns etc. Just make it yours!
The point is that as the process continues, you can see your progress, mark your milestones and keep simple statistics.
+10 for motivation and persistence guaranteed!
4. Report regularly on your achievements.
Show your results best on a weekly schedule to a friend, talk about what you would like to improve in the near future and how the improvements made last week have gone through.
If you are working by yourself and have no one to arrange regular meetings with, keep a notepad in which you will account for yourself.
So, what would you track this month?
Now it’s your turn to try it! Think about it, plan what is important for you now and don’t wait till next month! Start right now and keep on track. I hope the PhD Planner will help you stay productive and focused!
You can find this topic also in Polish on my blog HERE.