Improving Deep Work for Career Advancement

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash
Improving Team Engagement with Agile Principles
March 30, 2020
Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash


"Deep work" is a term coined by Professor Cal Newport, who teaches at the Computer Science Department Georgetown University. It refers to professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free full concentration that push cognitive activities to the limit.

This concept is similar to Michael Csikszentmihalyi's "flow," which is an important part of Positive Psychology. However, "deep work" is different in a way that it's "flow" with a strong emphasis on high cognitive activities. In "deep work," you'll be focusing on the task at hand that would result in high-quality outputs, due to the process of creation has been performed with complex cognitive skills, including detail orientation and laser-shape focus.

The opposite of "deep work" is "shallow work," which is noncognitively demanding and logistical-style tasks, which can be performed while being distracted. Those who work shallowly tend to focus on being "busy" instead of producing the highest output possible. However, most metrics can easily measure "shallow work," but not deep work.

Deep work requires good structuring to ensure that time will be properly spent and not wasted. With good structures, the skills, the opportunity to work on the work, and the requirements come together to produce the output. Without a good structuring effort, people tend to be distracted to multiple ways, which would affect the quality of the final output.

In every career, deep work would be beneficial, and it's a skill that can be trained and strengthened.

In this globalization era, those with the capacity to do deep works are likely to win the competition. For instance, in the past, people tend to hire the locals. However, with today's online tools, we can hire people from any parts of the world as long as the tasks can be transmitted electronically.

Considering the competition, there is a strong urgency to produce the highest outputs possible, which would require a talent to learn new skills, master existing skills, and be open to educating ourselves to master hard and complex things as fast as possible. Deep work, thus, is a necessity, not a luxury.

Improving performance with deep work requires at least four activities.

First, make working a deep and meaningful thing. Make it more than just merely activities that must be completed by due time. It should be something that gives meaning to your existence, so it would encourage you to focus even deeper.

Second, remain focused and push yourself one thrust further, even when you feel bored with the tasks at hand. Find ways to justify the tasks by reminding yourself that getting bored is just a part of work. What matters is being committed, and this feeling of commitment must be managed properly, so you can enjoy "boring things" that must be repeated to get things done.

Third, remove distractions. Use tools, like productivity apps and lock away your phone, tablet computer. Also, lock your monitor screen with a special "focus" app, so you can focus on one single screen that you're working on. Don't check your e-mails, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter repeatedly every five minutes. Time is of essence and focus is your life.

Fourth, filter things, so you only deal with truly useful and meaningful ones. This means you respect your mental energy, time, and resources. You don't deal with "shallow" things. Things that don't matter don't deserve to be commented or answered remember this rule. It's important to keep your mental capacity to do deep things, instead of shallow ones.

At last, improving career with deep work should come naturally as we mature as a person and in a career. However, people often succumb to temptations and don't use their best intellectual capacity. Continue to remind yourself that the only way to advance in a career is by working deeply continuously, so you'd become the best person to the job. When you've reached this point, you'd be able to win the global competition. Every single time.

Silvia Flores
Silvia Flores
Silvia Flores serves as Managing Partner of Alder Koten and is a member of the firm’s manufacturing, supply chain, and operations practice as well as the firm’s maquiladora practice. Silvia has a well-established track record for recruiting manufacturing and supply chain leaders. Her operations and engineering background provide excellent leadership counsel to clients and bring a comprehensive understanding of the competencies needed to excel in today’s fast-paced and demanding supply chain. She works proactively to build talent networks in manufacturing to quickly present targeted candidates to our clients.

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