Deep Work

Methods and techniques | adopt

Deep Work is cognitively demanding work performed in a distraction-free environment. Doing deep work requires intense focus, allowing one to reach the highest level of cognitive capabilities. The term was coined by Cal Newport and explained using many life examples in his book with the same title.

With increasing pace of technological progress, one needs to possess the ability to quickly learn new, complicated concepts, methods, programming languages in order not to fall behind. Counterintuitively, an individual expected to deliver high-quality work results on cognitively demanding problems is placed in a busy environment full of instant communication and meetings. As a result, their time is divided into small slots of thirty minutes here or one hour there, making it hard to focus on their work. Jason Fried, the founder and CEO of 37signals, refers to the moments when work gets done as "work moments" in his pragmatic TED talk on why work doesn't happen at work.

On a personal level, deep work requires choosing the right technique and practice. A person is in control of changing their habits. On the organizational level, things are more complicated, though. We think a deep work culture must be initiated by the leadership or fully supported by them if it's a bottom-up initiative.

The following practices work for us in building a deep work culture:

  • Having a strong advocate of the deep work culture within the organization.
  • Supporting asynchronous communication. We do not expect an immediate answer.
  • Blocking long time slots for deep work in one’s calendar.
  • Decreasing the number of meetings to an absolute minimum, keeping them time-boxed, with agenda and prior preparation.
  • Keeping documentation up-to-date.
  • Hiring people with good writing skills as they know how to express their thoughts clearly. We assess writing proficiency during the recruitment process.
  • Hiring people who understand and value deep work.
  • Providing a proper onboarding process for new hires.

To conclude, deep work is rare in the modern world conquered by noisy and instant communication. Nevertheless, this is deep, not shallow, work that creates new intellectual value. We recommend implementing an uninterrupted work culture in each organization that would like to deliver new technological value and make a dent in the universe.