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Unpolished Thoughts from Deep Work

Kamlesh Chandnani
May 12th, 2020 · 6 min read

This post is completely unintentional and coincidence and it is not related to any technical or non-technical content I promised to post. You can totally skip this if you want. To be honest I didn’t plan to release a post this week but… 😄

Last week was a hectic and low week for me so I decided that I’ll take a short break and keep myself away from devices to sit back, relax and recharge myself for the next week. So which means this week was a no-post week.

But over the weekend me and Sid were having a general conversation which popped out so many questions we were asking each other related to planning, work hours, side projects, setting goals etc. and while we were on it Sid said it’s like an Invisible Process and then he published a note about it

Since I was planning to relax and recharge I got reminded that I’ve a Deep Work audiobook pending with the last 50 minutes. Audiobooks used to be my daily commute thing but the last few minutes were pending after the lockdown so I decided to finish it today.

When I started listening to it I had started taking notes so to build the context today to finish the remaining part I opened up the notes and to my surprise half of the things me and Sid were discussing revolved around this book. It had all the answers. Finally I finished the book and then decided to post my notes in this week’s post.

The book is broken into 2 parts. The first part where the author speaks about Why deep work is great - The Idea and the second part talks about How to work deeply - The Rules

Here’s the Link to Deep Work on Audible

Part 1 - Convincing why Deep work is great

  • Disconnect yourself from the outside world.
  • Constantly train your brain that you have to do it. The brain is something which keeps on running here and there so we need to control.
  • The world is categorised into 3 types of people:
  1. Highly Skilled workers - These are creative people who are talented by birth
  2. Superstars - They know their shit and are great at what they do. They make themselves scarce so they are in more demand.
  3. Owners - People who are venture capitalists who have control on what they are doing.
  • To be highly productive you need to reduce the attention residue. This is basically your frequency of juggling between multiple tasks at the same time and hence your quality of work gets degraded.
  • Deep work is rare so and one should know what your professional traits look like. If you’re a manager/CTO/CEO then your most of the time will go into emails and followups and replying to everything instantly but let’s say if you’re a programmer then this might not hold true for you.
  • There are different types of Deep work
  1. Just disconnect yourself from everything and prioritise deep work
  2. Hybrid: Keep small chunks everyday for deep work
  3. Have frequency like 3 days deep work 3 days different type of work
  4. Journalist way: Utilise small chunks in your routine to squeeze your deep work in. This is very ambitious and is not easy to achieve.
  • The cost of switching from normal/shallow mode to deep work is very high. Context switching is also not easy but our brain needs to be treated well. We need to have a strong will

Part 2 - How to Work deeply

Rule-1: Work Deeply

  • Change your surroundings sometimes to work deeply. JK Rowling author of Harry Porter was not able to write the final part even though she had a home office. So she decided to book a suite in a 5 star and she used to go there everyday to finish off this book’s last part. With this strategy the brain is now in a different env and also you don’t have to train it explicitly to work deeply since it knows you’re paying a cost so the overhead of switching from shallow to deep work is very low.
  • Follow some schedule but on a regular basis.
  • Plan an ambitious long term goal but Keep a checklist for a milestone in small parts to fit into the bigger picture.
  • Allow space for your brain to rest. Follow work hours and when it’s over do a complete shutdown, no emails, no reading nothing just sit back and relax.
  • Isolate yourself completely else you end up doing shallow work which won’t help you ever achieve the long term goal.
  • Plan ahead. When you’re shutting down your day just have a checklist that what you planned for the day or for the long term goal to achieve are you on the right track, then plan for the next day accordingly and finally shutdown your day. Basically retrospect your day daily.
  • Have some deep work hours daily in your day and make it a habit.
  • Prefer consistency and regularity over quantity. Don’t over stress yourself or hold yourself guilty if you are not able to complete your schedule for the day
  • Have a planned work shutdown ritual and just stop work and thoughts once the work hours are passed.
  • Task completion is not tied to work shutdown. Have your hours planned and then whatever is pending just use that to dominate the next day’s todo list. Initially it will become hard but over time your brain will adapt it and it will help you to be more consistent and help your brain shutdown properly without thinking about “Oh that’s pending” “Oh I have to complete that before I shutdown my work”.

Rule-2: Embrace Boredom

  • Have slots for your social media/distraction sources and work slots. Refrain from using your distraction sources until you enter that slot. It’s difficult but you’ll get over it once you start training your brain. Even if you’re bored just don’t do it
  • Practice productive meditation: By this the author means that if you go for a walk or just sitting idle getting pissed about your boredom, just indulge yourself into the chain of thoughts and try to take one primary problem that you will be solving otherwise and embrace it during these activities.
  • Try to keep handy notes and keep on writing down your random thoughts throughout boredom/during your day.

Rule-3: Find meaning for Social Media

  • Social media sucks your time and it doesn’t gives back anything in return
  • Choose your tools wisely be it social media be it anything else
  • Don’t follow the strategy of “any” pros when selecting your social media tools, always follow the strategy of “pros weighing off cons”
  • For ex: Create a goal what you want to do and create the key objectives then choose the tool in this case Social media. Try to match that whether your choice of tool will help you achieve the key objective if not then probably you don’t need that tool right now and it will create unnecessary distraction.,
  • If the tool doesn’t weighs off the cons then you should not use it

Rule-4: Drain the Shallows

  • To achieve deep work you need to start draining your shallows.
  • Make a habit of creating a note and planning your schedule with proper blocks(similar to google calendar blocks).
  • This would sound interesting at the face but might despair sometimes if you miss on schedules and have a spill over. You might also feel guilty but don’t worry slowly your brain will be adapt to this and you’ll have better planning and estimation. Keep in mind it’s not about sticking and following your schedule it’s about what you do with your time.
  • Get insights where most of your time is going and how is it split between deep vs shallow. Use these insights to change your routine to plan your long term goal then try to split your time between shallow and deep accordingly.
  • If you’re working talk to your boss about this split and show them the insights about your shallow vs deep work time. They’ll realise if you’re doing a lot of shallow work while you should be doing deep work and hence this will help you to turn down few unnecessary distractive interruptions with confidence since now your boss has a say in it.
  • Once you have your split Keep it strict and follow it.
  • The author speaks about Fix schedule productivity which goes something like this - do a backtrack of your hour limit by first setting the fixed hours and then retrospecting of how you can achieve it and what you have been doing right and wrong so you can work on changing things which you were doing wrong. This way you can cap the shallow and actually do the deep work.
  • Most of the stress for not being able to work deeply is self-imposed and scary thoughts from own self. Train your brain so you can enjoy the benefits of deep work and not regret about the shallow work.
  • Don’t give specific detailed reasons if you want to deny something in lieu of your deep work. Just provide enough excuse so the other person understands it’s not going to work out this time and they won’t suggest alternatives which they could have done otherwise if you would have given detailed specific concerns
  • Don’t overload yourself. Rather try to train your brain for a situation that’s about to happen gradually. For example you know you’re going to be burdened with a lot of responsibilities in like one month so how will your current schedule work out? Start practicing that from today with the help of fake chunks so by the time you’re there your brain would have already adapted it.
  • Learn to say NO. Turndown shallow opportunity and don’t feel guilty about it.

If you follow some deep work strategies and would like to share then you can write it to me or you can DM me on Twitter. I would love to hear them!

P.S. If you like this, make sure to subscribe, share this with your friends and follow me on twitter 😀

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