My son lay asleep upstairs, taking his usual morning nap. There is never any way of knowing exactly how long it will last when he sleeps, so as I sat down to write, the clock was already ticking. The aim was to get as much done as possible before the baby went off. Fortunately, I was aided in my work by a new approach, introduced to me by a friend when he gave me the book, Deep Work, by Cal Newport.
He had briefly explained the concept beforehand – something about taking the time to do focused, concentrated work, away from any distractions. My reaction at the time had been, ‘But surely that’s just work?!’ It didn’t sound particularly revolutionary or even that helpful. I was wrong.
I read the book in no time at all, and felt an overwhelming feeling of having been given permission to do the things which all sorts of articles and experts tell us we should be doing – limit the use of our phones; reduce our presence on social media; leave our inbox alone for longer periods; and don’t think that every email has to be answered immediately. Take time for yourself; create clear boundaries; and shut yourself away if you need to focus. Two simple and powerful insights arose from its text: a distracted mind seeks further distractions; and deep work will allow you to create quality quickly.
All of this appealed to me, and it was clear after reading the book that I could make major progress in doing deep work just by reducing the distractions. From a previous attempt to create a new habit, I had already concluded that sleep needs to be prioritised, so TV and other screen time had already been drastically reduced. Now I was working on leaving my phone in my pocket much more often, knowing that every second I left it there was automatically increasing my chance of being able to work more effectively.
And that’s how it happened that on Monday morning, as the boy slept deeply, I worked deeply, writing two blog posts in two hours. I can easily spend many more hours just on one blog post, but I took an hour for each and it was easy. It was easy because I was more focused and less distracted. Simple.
Therefore, I am grateful for the book my friend gave me, which in itself was a gesture of gratitude for the discussions we have when we meet.
(Once again, this highlights the before and after surrounding one brief event. The book is just a book; but it was given because of engaging conversations, and its content gave rise to an increase in quality work and general satisfaction. Past and future drawn together around one simple phenomenon; a singularity, pulling in life from every direction until all there is, is now. Deep sleep, deep work, deep insight.)