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Deep Work for Well-Being

by Beth on January 21st, 2019

In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport argues that the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task is an essential skill for success. I would add that deep work is also a skill that can build greater well-being.

Deep work includes things like reading, writing, and thinking. Shallow work refers to non-cognitively demanding tasks that can be done while distracted, like answering emails or formatting documents.

Deep work is linked to well-being through its impact on learning, flow, and meaningful work.

Learning – Many models of well-being include either learning or growing as key factors for thriving. Learning exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and boosts our self-confidence. People who keeping learning throughout their lives have greater ability to cope with stress and report more feelings of hope and purpose.

Flow – When we experience flow, we lose our sense of self, forgetting about our worries and concerns, our sense of time is distorted, the experience is intrinsically rewarding, and our performance soars. Athletes describe it as being “in the zone”. They are achieving personal bests, yet their performance feels effortless.

Meaningful work – Having a sense that your life is meaningful is one of the most important factors for well-being. People who have meaning in their lives are happier and are more engaged in their work. They experience less stress, anxiety, and depression. Making progress on meaningful goals that are important, but not urgent often requires deep work.

Unfortunately, the ability to do deep work is a rare skill today. Most of us go through our lives in a state of continuous partial attention. Technology prevents us from focusing. One of Newport’s tips for deep work is to schedule blocks of hard but important intellectual work on your calendar. You should include where and how long you will work. Ninety minutes is a good goal. Eliminating distractions like email and social media is also key. Close your email, put your phone away, and turn off notifications.

Deep work requires discipline, but it can significantly impact your success and well-being. Many leaders, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, follow the 5-hour rule, dedicating 5 hours a week for deliberate learning. What about you? Do you schedule time to focus on meaningful work that lets you experience flow and continue to learn and grow? Why not start now?

One Comment
  1. Very interesting ! thanks !

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