In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport makes the distinction between “deep” and “shallow” work.
Deep work must be done in a state of distraction-free concentration and pushes your cognitive capabilities to the limit.
Shallow work is non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted, such as reading email, doing a repetitive task such as formatting documents, or others.
Newport defines four philosophies to apply deep work for different lifestyles:
- Monastic: cutting yourself from distractions completely;
- Bimodal: alternating between a normally engaged life and monastic. For example, Carl Jung had a “normal” therapy practice in Zurich and a fully removed environment for writing in his retreat house;
- Rhythmic: having a fixed time for deep work everyday, such as one hour in the early morning;
- Journalistic: an advanced mode. Fitting deep work in your schedule whenever you can, with no specific format, just like a journalist reacting to intense demands;
Newport also defines the concept of Roosevelt Dashes, that are intense work sprints inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s brief and intense study periods. These are periods where you decide to do a task and focus intensively, free of distractions, to reach one major goal.
Deep Work philosophies are a great fit for a bigger productivity system for working remotely, for example.