Published 3. July 2019

Deep work: Focusing as a fundamental condition for genuine success.

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How many times have you checked your smartphone today? Have you already had two meetings or only one so far?

Do you have the feeling you have done something productive in the past few hours? Have you progressed like someone crafting a table or boat? – Many people working on virtual tasks, freelancers and employees in IT, engineering and other industries occasionally or even frequently miss this positive feeling.

You are not alone: A McKinsey survey in 2012 showed that people working on virtual activities spend around 60 percent of their time taking care of electronic communication and Internet researches. On average 30 percent of the weekly working time are used to merely read and reply to emails.

Deep work versus shallow work. Deep thoughts rather than mere processing

No doubt, some things just need to be done. Processing and logistics are amongst these elements. – However, jumping between the most diverse range of activities, the feeling of having to permanently be available and digital overstimulation disrupt our concentration. What is the solution?

“Deep Work” is the strategy that will once again make individuals more productive, boost their satisfaction levels and make them more successful. This is how the creator of the term, Cal Newport, IT professor at the renowned Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., postulates the term. He wrote the best-seller entitled “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”.

Closed meetings or going for a walk? Find your individual deep work mechanisms.

Cal Newport avoids distractions as much as possible. For instance, he has never had any social media accounts. This reminds me of a quote by a history professor: “I do not have a TV. If I had one, I would not be able to work. But I have a friend who owns a TV. And she tells me what’s important.”

It sounds simple and it gets straight to the point. Our available time is limited. Do we want to use this time for profound thinking, structured learning, and solving complex tasks? Or do we mainly want to spend our time with chit chat and purely logistical procedures? It’s a decision we all need to make individually.

As IT experts, in SAP consulting or in engineering you frequently have more options than average employees to partly structure your working hours flexibly. If you ask Cal Newport, you should make the most of this opportunity for deep work.

Three suggestions to get into the deep work flow:

1. Don’t just add meetings, phone calls, and doctor’s appointments to your calendar. From now on, schedule a sufficient amount of hours for deep work every day or every week, as regularly as you can.

2. Live a healthy life and prevent pure distractions as much as you can. This is what major investor and stock market expert Warren Buffet meant when he said: “The difference between successful and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.” At least some degree of asceticism will do you good.

3. Create rituals. Cal Newport copies Charles Darwin who loved going for walks to then progress many more steps in his findings. A further quote by biographer David McCullough: “Nothing great was ever created in a large room.” The location, your environment, can also influence your thinking.

Give yourself some space, remove yourself from everyday pitter patter, focus – ultimately very old, pre-digital recommendations evident from this Zen Buddhist quote: “You can only fill an empty bowl.”

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