By David Skidmore
December 13, 2022

Are you wasting time on low-impact activities?

Cal Newport dives into the key to working without distraction in the book "Deep Work."

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

By Cal Newport

Have you ever had a project due, yet your brain was tangled in distractions? I don’t need to bore you with social media and technology statistics for us to agree we live in a “distraction-rich world.” Unfortunately, those distractions often hold us back from meaningful, impactful work.

Cal Newport wrote “Deep Work” to help you harness the power of your brain by getting into the space of “deep work.” He describes deep work as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.” He goes on to say, “these efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” One of the reasons it’s essential to hone your skill is how Newport describes the new economy and three groups of people that will have an advantage: “those who can work well and creatively with intelligent machines, those who are the best at what they do, and those with access to capital.”

While we may be easily distractible, Newport shares good news from his research, “Human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging.” When you get distracted from deep work by scrolling, texting, and consuming content, you experience the reality of entering the shallows.

You might be familiar with the feeling of “majoring in the minors,” where you spend more time on low-impact activities, which robs you of high-impact activities. Unfortunately, low-impact activities rarely provide a meaningful work life.

So how do you make the change? 

“The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration,” Newport writes. “To produce at your peak level, you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task — free from distraction.”

How do you sustain this over time?  

“If you want to win the war for attention,” he continues, “don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.”

Perhaps the moral of this book is that we don’t just need to give ourselves to the work we do, but we will be wise to choose work that leads us to a “terrifying longing that crowds out everything else.” What if that was the future of your work? 

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About David Skidmore

David Skidmore is a speaker, leadership trainer, and executive coach. He is the founder and CEO of LeaderGrowth, a leadership company designed to help individuals and organizations overcome challenges and experience transformation. David is the author of Unstuck: Turn Potential into Purpose which is available on Amazon, and his podcast LeaderGrowth with David Skidmore is available wherever you listen to podcasts. He is the co-organizer of TEDxOklahomaCity and has coached 17 speakers resulting
in over 150k views. David enjoys the Oklahoma City Thunder, summers at the lake, and exploring new cities.