Applying Deep Work – My 5 Simple Steps to Start Working Deep Today

It took a dozen of people recommending it to me, and a bad day feeling overwhelmed, for me to finally read it.

Deep Work, by Cal Newport, is the most impactful book I have read during the past few years.

I take its content very seriously, and took immediate action, as I was reading it, to transform the way I approach work, and what I do with my time in general.

In this quick post, I want to share with you the way I decided to apply the content of the book. It’s a commitment to me, and it might give you some practical ideas at the same time.

I couldn’t recommend you enough to actually get the book and read it.

I can share ideas, but reading the book, feeling the mindset, understanding through examples, etc. is what makes 95% of the message.

1) But first, a bad day

It didn’t take me much to be triggered. Some issues with my staff, an event not going as planned, an irritating bad news.

That’s it.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad day, but the way I interpreted what happened started to make it look like one.

I felt myself becoming angry, so I left.

Not that I was screaming around and breaking stuff in the house, but the feeling was intense enough for me to know I needed to be by myself, to let my clarity come back.

It took me a few hours to calm down.

I used to fall in this kind of state several times a week when I still lived in France.

As I traveled and settled in Bali for a few years, my impatience considerably improved.

But today, some minor things triggered it. It’s been a few weeks.

Quickly after I calmed down, I went to have some food and shared this idea of doing a silent retreat with my girlfriend.

She was surprised, but as always, supportive.

We started to talk about it, make a few plans, talk about the dates, played around with cool ideas of things to do there, and went back home.

As I laid down on the bed, this book came back into my thoughts: Deep Work.

I heard the title dozens of times before, but I never took action to buy it and read it.

For some reason, I felt like it was the right time to read it.

I ignored my usual mental block and bought the ebook version on my phone (I usually keep saying I can’t read books on the phone).

It was 2 days ago.

Maybe I didn’t need a silent retreat, but I needed to change the way I approach my work ethic.

As an entrepreneur in Bali, my days don’t have any structure, and it’s easy for me to mix up work and leisure, and end up feeling overwhelmed.

2) The key concepts of deep work

For the first time in a while, I was very serious taking notes as I read the book and identified the key concepts I was about to put into practice right away.

It’s not just another self-help book to help you live a better life.

It’s a science-backed approach to how essential depth is in our professional and personal life.

And it’s full of practical ways to take action right away.

The deep work is opposed to the shallow work, with this idea that deep work requires long uninterrupted stretches of time, to accomplish cognitive intensive work that leads to breakthroughs and high quality and non-replicable work (think: writing, research, strategy)

When shallow work is low attention, full of distraction, low quality and easily replicable (think: meetings, emails, social media)

As I took my notes, I summarised 5 of the main key things to implement in order to facilitate deep work on a daily basis:

Having a dedicated private space to focus on deep work allowing a specific time frame during the day to disconnect and focus on deep work deciding exactly what will the deep work hours be used for during this timeframe setting optimal conditions (access to food, water, cutting internet off, etc.) and a ritual (starting with a coffee, meditation, etc.) that we repeat each time we start the deep work making sure to be 100% unreachable during the deep work hours

Those above were the 5 main points I decided to immediately implement (more on this in the next part), and Cal Newport also adds 4 rules to guide us about “how” to actually practice deep work:

1 – Focus on wildly important goals 2 – Track the deep work hours working on those goals 3 – Display a monthly scoreboard to count those deep work hours 4 – Review, celebrate & improve at the end of the week while preparing the next one

Those 5 concepts and 4 rules only are what makes 50% of the value of the book in my opinion.

And the other 50% of the book is about practical advice, strategies, and example to go further and also transform the way we approach our personal time (internet blocks, social media ban, time structuring, etc.)

Now, I said above that I immediately took action after reading Deep Work in order to apply what I read.

So here is what I did.

3) Applying Deep Work

As I went through the pages of Deep Work, I highly connected with the message delivered by Cal Newport.

It wasn’t easy to hear, but it spoke to me. Everything he said made perfect sense, the studies he quoted were eye-opening.

It wasn’t easy, because what I felt as I read it was: “omg, what was I doing to myself during the whole time?”

But I am not one to complain about being wrong when I realize it, so I decided that the best thing to do would be to start applying what I read right away and see if it works for me.

I went around the street, in Ubud, to find woodworker. I bought a wooden desk and chair from them. 100% plain teak wood, brand new. It cost me 60€.

Then I went into an unused room of the house we use as storage, and my girlfriend helped me cleaning it up, changing the light and putting the desk and chair inside.

I went upstairs to bring all I needed:

WhiteboardNotebookPaper & TapeLaptopA bottle of water

That’s it.

We pimped the place a bit by adding some curtains and made sure it was lockable from the inside.

This morning, after waking up at 5:30 AM and doing my usual morning routine, I went straight into the Deep Work Room.

I decided to schedule my deep work hours first thing in the morning and aim for a 4h block of distraction-free uninterrupted time.

My girlfriend thinks I am a bit weird, but as I explained the concept to her, she once again showed a lot of support and understanding.

The rule is simple: when I am in the Deep Work Room, I am unreachable, and won’t answer to anybody.

Except, maybe, if the house is on fire.


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