Whether you are aware of it or not, there are attention traps everywhere you turn. Scrolling through your inbox, checking your group chats and social media for the latest updates, or attending some meetings where your input isn’t required – yet alone invited – all qualify.

These are classic examples of how we can allow our attention, time, and energy to be hijacked and lured away from more meaningful and beneficial activities.

The recent release the Netflix docudrama, The Social Dilemma, explores the rise of social media and the damage it has caused to society, focusing on the exploitation and manipulation of its users.

Author, Cal Newport, has researched this phenomenon at length, classifying our use of time as either Shallow or Deep.

Shallow work incorporates tasks that almost anyone could accomplish – e-mail replies, tinkering with social media, and so on. As Newport describes in his book, Deep Work; “This work is attractive because it’s easy, which makes us feel productive, and it’s rich in personal interaction, which we enjoy.”

Shallow work can be identified by the very nature of being non-cognitively demanding and often performed while distracted. Shallow work typically doesn’t create new value in the world.

In contrast, Deep Work is most-often performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that can extend your cognitive capabilities. These efforts create new value and improve your competencies.

Whilst the practise of deep work (and the subsequent decrease of shallow work) may prove difficult to adopt at first, the benefits are many:

  • A rekindled passion and satisfaction from your work
  • An improvement in the quantity of your output
  • Continued improvement in the standard of your work

How can we Dive Deeper?

Newport encourages us to establish a ‘deep work routine’, where we practice intention with our time and consider where we will fit in periods of focus.

One effective strategy is to consider the following when building a deep work ritual:

  • Location: Choose a space that is distraction free and where you can spend extended periods of time.
  • Duration: Prior to starting your deep work, commit to a time-limit you will spend focused on the task (if this is a new practise for you, start with a smaller period of time).
  • Structure: Clarify what deep work will consist of for you. (Phone on silent, door closed, desk cleared of clutter, etc)
  • Requirements: In addition to structure, learn what items or accessories you may need to assist you during this monastic time; e.g. water or green tea, quiet background music, etc.

In addition to the benefits previously outlined, you will come to realise how little time you have previously spent doing Deep Work and may also experience a renewed clarity and ability to focus for longer periods of time.

Don’t fear spending too much time in the deep end of the mind. To replenish yourself, you can always take a splash in the shallow end – just for kicks!

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