Why You Must Make Time for Deep Work
In an average week, how much time do you spend doing deep work? This is where you are engaged in high-value tasks, free from outside distractions, using the full potential of your cognitive abilities. Such tasks might involve creative thinking, problem-solving, or technical work – anything that requires intense and sustained concentration to complete.
For comparison, how much time do you spend doing shallow work? This is all those low-value, repetitive tasks that tend to consume so much of our time – reading and writing emails, attending meetings, Slack conversations, personal admin, phone calls, and so on.
While both are important in their own way, deep work is where we make real progress. It’s also where we find the most satisfaction. But here’s the problem: deep work is much harder to achieve than shallow work. Why? Because to reach the required level of focus, the conditions need to be just right.
Shallow work can be done pretty much anywhere – in a bustling open-plan office while making small talk with colleagues, in a busy café, or even on the bus. Deep work, on the other hand, isn’t something you can just jump into when you have a spare five minutes between meetings. You can’t just pick it up and put it down.
Unfortunately, the modern workplace simply isn’t set up to support periods of deep focus and concentration. This makes regular and sustained deep work almost impossible for your average office-based employee.
Why does this matter?
Deep work is essential not only for new ideas and progress but for personal happiness and engagement. By limiting opportunities for deep work, we are limiting our potential for personal growth and business success.
In a knowledge-based economy, the ability to think, create, innovate, and solve problems is priceless. While a lot of the shallow work we are currently lumbered with could one day be automated, deep work will become even more important.
But deep work is a skill that takes practice. In our world of constant distractions and technological noise, many people have lost the ability to focus for prolonged periods of time. Ironically, as this type of work becomes increasingly valuable, it is also becoming increasingly difficult to do.
It’s clear that individuals who regularly set aside time for deep work will achieve more than those that don’t. Likewise, businesses that support their employees by providing the time and space they need to focus on deep work will outperform those that fail to.
How do I do more deep work?
The only way to ensure that deep work happens is to make time for it – to plan ahead, and to situate yourself in an environment that is conducive to focus and inspiration. If you don’t do this, you’ll forever be trying – and failing – to do deep work in conditions that make it impossible.
Once you have blocked some time off for deep work, ensure that you keep all distractions to an absolute minimum. Turn your phone to silent, turn off Slack, and ignore incoming emails – or better still, temporarily block them - something you can do with the People First digital assistant!
Then use the time you have – whether it’s 30 minutes or three hours – to focus 100% on the task at hand. This sounds simple, but we are so accustomed to working in a frantic, scatter-brained way, jumping from one task to another, surrounded by incessant distractions, that it can be surprisingly challenging. Stick with it, however, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve in a relatively short space of time.
Organizations must understand this and give their employees the freedom to work in environments that are suitable for the work they are engaged in. If we want to tackle issues such as employee disengagement and low productivity, we must allow our staff the time and space to focus on work that makes a real difference.