I listened to Deep Work by Cal Newport on audio and I’m kicking myself for not just buying the book. There were so many useful ideas listed and I wish I could have marked up the pages. In Deep Work, the author differentiates deep work from “shallow work.” Shallow work is anything that is consumed or created in small, broken fragments – writing emails, posting on social media, etc. Deep Work is anything that requires intense focus and concentration, such as writing a peer reviewed article or a novel. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the shallow work, but so many of us find it difficult to transition from shallow to deep work because we haven’t trained our brains to focus and dive into what we’re hoping to accomplish.
Newport offers a lot of practical advice on how to train our brains and limit the distraction in our life, which I won’t get into in detail here. But his most “radical” suggestion is to not use social media. He offers reasons why people use social media and provides alternatives to Facebook and Twitter that encourage thoughtful and meaningful interactions. Reading this book combined with the inspiration that Laila at Big Reading Life provided with her recent Twitter break, I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone. I’m still using them, but I have to be sitting at my computer to do so. It’s only been a few days, but I’ve already noticed that I’m more present when I’m at work trying to tick through my to-do list and when I’m at home and playing with my children. I can’t say that it’s helped me accomplish any of my own “deep work,” because I’m not exactly sure what that would look like in my life!
I was interested in the concept of this book because of my obsession with Maria Popova, who I see as the textbook definition of someone who does Deep Work. While on social media, she rarely retweets or engages with followers, but she instead uses the platforms to share new articles or older ones that are relevant to the day’s news. Most of her posts on social media are thoughtfully scheduled, which leaves her days focused on the core of her work: reading and writing. People flock to her website because she is a content creator, and she’s a content creator because of her ability to focus and do deep work.
As a relatively new blogger, it’s hard not to see social media as a means of acquiring engagement with your blog. I’m not sure how else to connect with potential readers without using Twitter or Instagram. But for the last several weeks, I’ve been working on keeping my head down and creating content, rather than focusing on external numbers which I have very little power over.
All in all – this was one of the best books that I’ve read on using your time well and it was encouraging. Most of us are able to make some small tweaks in our lives that will allow us to focus on things that provide meaning in our lives, even if it’s not writing research articles or novels. We all wish we could spend more time on certain passions and I believe this book will help you look at your life in a new way and find pockets of time that you didn’t realize you had.