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Why Mastering Deep Focus is Vital for Producing Excellent Work

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In 2013, Microsoft Corporation made headlines when a study they conducted revealed the human attention span had shortened from 12 seconds down to a measly eight—one second shorter than a goldfish. Many blame this drop on the impact of the digital age, where we have constant access to seemingly endless streams of information available on multiple devices and screens.

According to Cal Newport, this shortened attention span is attributing to what he refers to in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World as “shallow work.” This type of work doesn’t produce anything of real value and is easy to replicate. What this means for professionals producing shallow work is that they can be replaced—whether it’s their job, company, or business.

Instead, Newport makes the case for why deep focus is vital to producing excellent work. What he refers to as “deep work” is done in a distraction-free environment where a person can push their learning and cognitive efforts to the limit. The product of deep work is often something unique, valuable, and difficult to replicate. To further his point, Newport, cites the practices of Carl Jung who built his a tower in the woods in order to advance his understanding of the unconscious mind; Bill Gates who twice a year goes on “Think Weeks” where he does nothing aside from read and think big thoughts; or J.K. Rowling who withdrew from social media to dedicate time to finishing her novels without distraction.

A Catch-22 Situation

The reason why professionals today need to master the art of deep work is the same reason why we have a shortened attention span. Technology is moving at an increasingly faster pace every year—and with so many possibilities pulling us in different directions, we’re bound to get distracted. However, we need to deeply understand these technologies in order to come up with innovative new thoughts so we can remain competitive in our professional careers. This is where deep work can help.

“To remain valuable in our economy…you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things. This task requires deep work. If you don’t cultivate this ability, you’re likely to fall behind as technology advances.”

Deep Work is split into two parts in order to help readers understand the value of the concept and put it into practice. If you’re looking to enhance your career and transform the way you work, then this book can help train your brain by putting deep work at the core of your professional life.

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