This book is going on my Top Ten list for productivity. It answered a lot of questions and made a lot of connections for me. It's obvious that Cal Newport knows how to achieve the state of deep work, and he's had the grace to put it all in a book so that the rest of us can figure it out, too. It may be of particular value to chronic procrastinators; that's where I found the most insight.
Newport talks about "shadow work," a term used by Steven Pressfield in a slightly different sense. Pressfield says we turn to shadow work when we cave in to Resistance and seek to avoid our true work. Newport defines shadow work as everything tangential to, but not essential to, our true work. Email and unproductive meetings are two of the major offenders. Ideally, our professional work aligns with our true calling in this world. Either way, shadow work is helpful neither in a practical nor in a metaphorical sense. Newport recommends that we offload it, negotiate our way out of it, delegate it, get it out of our job descriptions, or work on it only at unproductive times of day.
I wake up dopey and disoriented in the morning. I don't feel fully mentally alert until around 10 AM. Knowing this, I have learned to do undemanding tasks when I first wake up. That's when I start the laundry and read my email. Email for me is almost all newsletters, bank statements, and alerts for things like veterinary or dentist appointments. It's all busywork or information I can skim for the 20% that I find useful; I can blast through it and save for later anything that needs my full focus. It would be silly of me to use a time of high mental alertness to fold laundry. The reason I do it at all is because I focus better in an orderly environment. The reason I do it when I do is that I'm not going to get anything amazing done during that time of day, regardless.
Deep work is a potentially revolutionary concept for chronic procrastinators. I think Newport hits the nail on the head when he talks about deep work as a mental state; it's the elusive feeling that procrastinators want to be feeling when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, i.e.: working. It really is a magical altered state. The thing is, we do feel this feeling of deep work, but we only tend to be absorbed in that manner when we are doing non-work things, like reading, playing games, or crafting. We know intuitively that we could be feeling it when we are doing real work, but it doesn't come automatically, and we don't know how to induce it. Newport explains how in Deep Work. He uses examples from highly productive, highly successful people, some of whom overcame the tendency toward procrastination. I loved this book, and it has had me doing some serious analysis of my work patterns. Most highly recommended.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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