Shallow and Deep Work - Deepstash

Shallow and Deep Work

  • Shallow work is all of the routine activities that accompany work, but don't require skill or concentration, such as answering emails, attending meetings, or paperwork.
  • Deep work is what you're paid for. It's a hard-to-do, attention-demanding activity. Those who can spend long periods of time engaged in deep work get to do truly meaningful things.

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MORE IDEAS FROM On Doing Your Life's Work | Scott H Young

The Difficulty of Depth
  • Quantity: We don't do enough deep work. Shallow work seems more urgent and is easier to pay attention to.
  • Quality: We don't do deep work for long enough. To be effective, we need large, uninterrupted chunks of time.

We may intend to get more deep work done, but doing the work week after week is another thing.

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The system to perform your best work is simply to continuously track your deep work hours. Keeping this record can be an eye-opener to how you spend your time. You may find that only a quarter of your available working hours are spent on deep tasks.

  • Note the starting time you start your deep work. When you get interrupted or stop, note the ending time.
  • Only count the chunks for deep work that is longer than half an hour.
  • Add up the deep tasks.

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We all have good intentions about getting work done, but we rarely stick to them. Instead, we allow distractions to use up our time until there is nothing left.

We need to choose what is worth paying attention to. A system of focus will help you to keep track of deep work. Knowing where your time goes is an essential first step to taking control.

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RELATED IDEA

  • Deep work”: using your skills to create something of value. It takes thought, energy, time and concentration.
  • Shallow work”: all the little administrative and logistical stuff: email, meetings, calls, expense reports, etc.

Shallow work stops you from getting fired — but deep work is what gets you promoted. 

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Personal Productivity: A Primer

In the 1950s, work shifted from being labour-intensive towards being mind-intensive and eventually started to overload people’s cognitive abilities.

This led to the personal productivity boom, and books like ‘Getting Things Done’ and many others were hugely successful, as managers, professionals and knowledge workers tried to be productive while juggling their work and personal life.

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The role of effort

For most types of work you can increase your productivity by increasing the intensity of your work. No more watercooler chats or lingering over emails.

Some productivity systems admit that we can get more done within the same time. But scheduling every moment of your working day takes extra effort.

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