Strategies for Deep Work #2

[This post is part of a book review series on Deep Work, by Cal NewPort. See post 1 for a summary.]


In Newport’s chapter titled “Rule #1: Work Deeply”, he outlines strategies and principles to help us build rituals and rhythms to do deep work that stretches our personal abilities. This first rule is about reducing and removing distractions that prohibit us from doing deep work. I outlined his first strategy (see post 1) about deciding on a Depth Philosophy. Here’s a list of the strategies (I’ll only highlight a few):

  • Decide on your Depth Philosophy
  • Ritualize
  • Make Grand Gestures
  • Don’t Work Alone
  • Execute Like a Business
  • Be Lazy

Ritualize

This strategy is about adopting rituals (actions, gestures, intentions) that help to create and maintain regular patterns of deep work. Here are some of his examples:

  • Identify where you’ll work and for how long
  • Identify how you’ll work once you start to work
  • Identify how you’ll support your work

I found this principle helpful to continue focusing on my work habits and patterns of when and where and how I like to think and create. For me, I like the morning times. It’s when my brain is the sharpest to think critically. I also don’t check emails, social media, or respond to phone calls/text messages. No tech distractions. I also like sitting in my reading chair or my patio. Both are quiet and soothing places.

“Surrounding such efforts with a complicated (and perhaps, to the outside world, quite strange) ritual accepts this reality—providing your mind with the structure and commitment it needs to slip into the state of focus where you can begin to create things that matter.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 121). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Execute Like a Business

For this principle, Newport is now interested in HOW to execute strategy. What and how are two different set of questions. We may know that (what) we need to do, but not know HOW to execute it. For this, Newport refers to the book, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” and then summarizes each discipline.

  • Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important
    • identify a small number of ambitious goals (or outcomes) during deep work hours…with a tangible reward attached to it.
  • Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures
    • measure your success by focusing on activities that will improve behaviors that will impact your long term goals
  • Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
    • have a way to publicly record and track your lead measures
  • Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
    • review your weekly work and scoreboard to celebrate and make adjustments

Here’s one my favorite quotes from the above principle:

David Brooks endorsed this approach of letting ambitious goals drive focused behavior, explaining: “If you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 137). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Bringing it Home for Me

So how does this apply to me? I have a few areas that require some deep work:

  • church planting
  • corporate chaplaincy
  • music

Using the church planting area, my work is to focus on discovering what the wildy, ambitious goals are for a new church. For me, my goal isn’t to get a lot of people to a church service. It’s not even to tell people what to do. Part of my work is to discover what the wildy important goals are. They seem to be connected to justice, healthy relationships, and caring for leaders who have big ideas on how to transform our city to reflect God’s love.