How do you get to that next level? An elite level where you are renowned amongst your industry. The place where your heroes and inspirations are. Where people have tens, even hundreds of thousands of followers and admirers. Did you ever wonder how they got there? And how they stay there? It’s no secret. It’s down to a concept that is so rare and so hard to find in our changing society. Something that’s so sparse. It’s down to ‘Deep work’.
‘Deep work’ is a concept coined by author Cal Newport. Where he describes the type of work needed to become prolific as deep, thoughtful, and skilled. We live in an age of highly technical machines that do a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ in our work for us. Machines capable of doing incredible things for us. Creating art, analysing spreadsheets, producing SAS’s (Software as Service), and countless others impacts in various industries. All of the things that matter in our society. There are people in any industry who are top of their game. The go-to’s, the household names, the ones who are so prolific that their work is known throughout various industries and societies, worldwide.
But this is the question. How did they get there? How did they become so prolific and so skilled at hat they do, especially in a world filled with noise and distraction, a world where you can access any amount of knowledge and information in your pocket. Social media and information overload is a real problem for people. The key is the art of concentration. The ability to focus on a subject, become comfortable with delving deep into that subject for periods of time and not become distracted.
Those who are most valuable in our economy are those who are able to learn complicated things quickly. To master the art of ‘Deep Work’.
Learning to focus in a distracted world is how you are going to become prolific in your industry and skilled at what you do. Start by reducing the amount of time you spend online. Online is a form of entertainment for the most part. If you want to do anything great, you have to limit the amount of entertainment you consume. Put a timer on how long you spend on social media, how long you play video games for, or whatever else it is that you consume as entertainment. Learn to be disciplined. This may sound harsh when you are used to doing everything you want, whenever you want. But if you want to do great things in your life, you need to put in the effort to learn something, a skill or craft, without distraction, for a long period of time, which may take an entire career to master. Nothing good ever came from something that wasn’t worked for, let alone anything at all. There is no such thing as an overnight success.
Distraction is a problem that affects us all. When we are doing a task for a long period of time, or hours on end, we take little breaks in between to help our brain recover from long periods of intense focus. This is natural. I encourage people to take more breaks if anything. But it’s after these short breaks, that’s where the problem arrises. How long are you taking with your breaks, how hard is it to focus and tune yourself back into what you were doing? What is it that you are distracting yourself with that’s pulling you away from the task that needs to be focussed on?
Are you taking a break every hour to walk outside, get fresh air, a drink of water, and to stretch your legs? Or are you taking your phone out, checking your Facebook, your Snapchat or endlessly scrolling through reddit, bingeing videos on Youtube, or any another entertainment site? This is a bad kind of distraction and only serves to pull you away from your work in a mental capacity. You’re going to have a hard time focussing on a tough topic such as coding if you are switching between entertainment on a regular, consistent basis instead of leaving the computer or workplace to do something more physical, something that is not associated with consuming. Keep your brains power at a maximum by getting away and not
Keep your brain’s power at a maximum not consuming useless information. This is why you’re best utilising your brain’s knowledge and power when you first wake up. As I’ve written about here, in post #1 and again in post #21.
How to Thrive
Cal Newport describes the two core abilities necessary for thriving in our economy as;
- The ability to quickly master hard things.
- The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.
This is what the concept of ‘Deep work’ is described as. The ability to learn how to stay undistracted in a noisy world, become comfortable at staying in a state of deep focus for long periods of time (which may or may not be at the same time, but over the course of years in order to learn do master a skill), and to produce at an elite level.
These are all skills you must learn yourself. Schools and colleges don’t teach the art of discipline and concentration. Nor do they equip you with the understanding of real world businesses. What colleges do is teach you how to learn, in a bid that you will understand the act of learning and how important it is for your future self. Fall in love with the act of learning. Technologies are so complex and situational in the real world that you cannot expect a school or college to prepare you for everything. There is no way that you should expect them to somehow prepare you for each situation. They give you the skill of learning so that you are able to learn and problem solve given the unique situation.
As Cal Newport explains it;
“Giving students iPads or allowing them to film homework assignments on Youtube prepares them for a high-tech economy as much as playing with Hot Wheels would prepare them to thrive as auto mechanics”
Deep work is as equally valuable to our economy as it is to you personally. The ability to produce at an elite level at a consistent and persistent level doesn’t go unnoticed within your industry. The topic of Deep work ties hand in hand with ‘Deliberate Practice’, as talked about before in post #66.
How are you going to stand out from the rest? How are you going to do great work that is talked about and noticed within your industry? Start by loving to learn and then learning to concentrate. Reduce distraction = Do great work.