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The Developer's Guide to achieving Deep Work for Focus & Productivity

The Developer's Guide to achieving Deep Work for Focus & Productivity

A reflection/review of "Deep Work" by Cal Newport and how I apply it as a developer

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Victoria Lo
ยทMar 10, 2023
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Table of contents

  • What is Deep Work?
  • Why Deep Work?
  • So, How to Practice Deep Work?
  • Conclusion

Last month, I finished a book called "Deep Work" by Cal Newport. It is truly an enlightening book for me, as it taught me some insights on how to work smart, not hard; and how to incorporate deep work to maximize my productivity as a developer, blogger and technical writer.

In this article, let me share some of these insights and actionable steps I did after reading the book. I hope it will be helpful for anyone who's trying to organize their goals and stay on track to progress on it.

What is Deep Work?

Cal Newport describes the term 'Deep Work' as:

"A focused, uninterrupted, undistracted work on a task that pushed your cognitive abilities to their limit."

Now let me ask you some of these questions:

  • How long has it been since you last felt that you did deep work?

  • How often do you think you did deep work?

  • If you haven't done any deep work recently, what do you think is the cause of a lack of deep work?

Going back to the book, Newport argues that deep work has been a factor in success in today's modern information-based economy. The skills that we need to succeed presently are:

  • Complex problem-solving skills

  • Data analysis skills

  • Programming skills

As developers, honing these 3 skills will be our path to mastery and we will need to continuously challenge ourselves to improve these skills if we want to stay relevant in the job market.

Why Deep Work?

As mentioned in the previous section, we need to always hone our skills in order to be excellent developers. Deep work is important because acquiring and developing these skills requires high concentration.

For example, learning a new technology/framework (i.e. GraphQL, React) requires not only time but focus. This is basically deep work. You will need an undistracted environment to absorb new things and apply them often.

A formula that Newport believes in is:

High-quality work produced = Time spent * Intensity of Focus

Deep work is important as it helps to align acquiring new skills with goals. However, our environment today is full of distractions - emails, social media, etc.

Studies have shown that people are less tolerant of boredom or being idle. Whether it's during our commute to work, or waiting for your coffee order, or anything really, we are constantly glued to our screens. Our attention spans and focus are shortening throughout the decades, making it difficult for anyone to achieve deep work today.

So, How to Practice Deep Work?

1. Define Goals

Define what kind of deep work that you would like to do and how is that related to your long-term goals. It can be personal or work-related.

Then, list down some of the metrics that you can track to monitor your progress. It helps you keep accountability and at the same time, you will not be distracted and wonder if you've done enough while doing deep work.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to start:

  • What's one of your most important goals?

  • What can you do to achieve it?

  • Reflect on how you spend your time. Are the activities you're doing contributing to this goal? If not, why?

2. Block Time

When you allocate time to focus and do deep work, it is more likely you will be able to stick to it. Continue to approach it with structure, habit and discipline.

It becomes easier when it becomes a routine.

3. Set A Deep Work Environment

Designate a place where you can do deep work such as a coworking space, library, your favourite coffee shop, etc. This will unconsciously remind you that whenever you enter this environment, it is time to do deep work.

Ensure the space you have chosen is distraction-free.

4. Practice Focus

Earlier, I mentioned that our attention spans and focus are shortening. To prevent that, start practising focus by letting boredom happen.

When waiting in line, instead of looking at your phone to check socials, look around you. Observe and focus on your surroundings.

Conclusion

There are never-ending distractions around us today. Doing deep work and making it a part of your routine is essential for levelling up your skills and keeping yourself updated in the tech industry.

I hope this article is helpful in explaining what deep work is and how to practice it. I recommend reading the book "Deep Work" by Cal Newport if you want to learn more about it. Thanks for reading!

Please leave any comments you may have, and do give a like if this article was a good read for you. Cheers!

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