Valuing ‘deep work’ in a world of shallow intrusions

Liam Horan, BALLINROBE Tel: 094 95 42965

Whether or not it has impacted upon you yet, there is no doubting the fact that a workplace revolution is currently underway. The phrase ‘the future of work’ has become mainstream and enlightened organisations are focusing on how they can cope with the challenges of the new order, while workers, too, are trying to figure out where it’s all going, writes Liam Horan, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

The work of author Cal Newport in outlining the challenges of the modern workplace – and how we might best overcome them to increase productivity and quality – is very insightful.

Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University in the USA, and has written six books. When a client recently recommended Deep Work by Newport, I wondered if it would one more Malcolm Gladwell-type affair: interesting, fascinating at times, but low on actual suggestions for conquering the challenges we all face in trying to cope with the pressures of work.

I was wrong. Newport brings it home.

The book is predicated on his view that the ability to carry out deep work is one of the most important skills of the present and future. By deep work, he means the ability to switch off phones and other distractions to concentrate on a task for even a few hours.

If you can do that, you can prosper. Look around you: how many can actually do that?

Newport also sees deep work as the ability to learn things quickly and to bring a level of focus to your work so that it will be of a high quality.

When you work deeply, Newport says, you develop your cognitive capabilities.

Deep work, try it sometime.

Are you able to turn off your phone and other distractions for three hours? Could you leave it upstairs while you work downstairs? Can you participate in a three-hour meeting without reaching for your ubiquitous technological appendage?

If you can, you are a deep worker.

If you can’t, you might want to make some changes. Newport goes through various strategies that will reduce the distractions and, in the process, increase your capacity to carry out deep work.

After reading the book, you could see yourself planning your calendar differently. You might seek out a closed office rather than the open plan one where you currently operate.  You may slash a lot of your social media activity.

You will get more done in a shorter space of time. You will realise – as if you didn’t already suspect it – just how insidious has been technology’s intrusion into every area of our lives.

You will value quiet time not just for the tranquility it brings but the sparks of genius it can inspire.

In short, you will focus on deep work, a valuable commodity in today’s world. If everyone is distracted – ping, there goes the phone again sending some breathless notification my way – those who are able to focus can steal a march.

Newport, who doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook account, and has still managed to become a bestselling author, is worth checking out on various podcasts and other online forums. He poses questions that we all need to consider.

Liam Horan is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Ballinrobe.

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