One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible. My recent survey of the last 50 days of my five minute journalling showed I have a serious problem with “deep work”. Deep work refers to Cal Newport’s thesis (he expands on it vastly in his excellent book) that: [Deep work is] cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve… [. Deep work results in] improvement of the value of your work output… [and] an increase in the total quantity of valuable output you produce. This is contrasted with “shallow work”, the tasks that “almost anyone, with a minimum of training, could accomplish” such as checking emails, planning, social media etc. I read Deep Work more or less in one sitting on a twelve hour flight from Tokyo and it summarised much of my pre-held thoughts
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