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Deep Work to Grow Your Small Business.

How to perform in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive [thinking, reasoning, or remembering] capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and allow you to do deep work to grow your small business.

David Begin and Henry Lopez discuss the practice and habit of concentrated time blocks of focused work, which is critical to completing valuable work and yet becoming increasingly rare in our current lives. You may call this Time Blocking, or Time Boxing, although it’s not just about time management. You may also refer to it as Focus Time or as Call Newport named it: Deep Work.

We will discuss just a few of the key points of the book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport – we encourage you to read this book to learn more about this important topic. This is the topic of our conversation today.

Deep Work to Grow Your Small Business:

The Problem:

  • The Book:Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport.
    • Cal Newport also authored “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”
    • Cal coined the term “deep work” in a series of articles published on his popular blog, “Study Hacks: Decoding Patterns of Success”
  • Deep Work (Cal’s definition): Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive [thinking, reasoning, or remembering] capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
  • Shallow Work: Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.
  • The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time is it becoming valuable in our economy.
  • Collaborative Deep Work: Isolation is not required for productive deep work. For many types of work, especially when pursuing innovation, collaborative deep work can yield better results.
  • “A 2012 McKinsey study found that the average knowledge worker now spends more than 60% of the workweek engaged in electronic communication and internet searching, with close to 30% of a worker’s time dedicated to ready an answering e-mail alone.”
  • “…fragmented into distracted dashes that produce muted quality.”
  • “…Network Tools [email, text, social media] are distracting us from work that requires unbroken concentration, while simultaneously degrading our capacity to remain focused.”
  • What are some of our common distractions? As Business Owners?
    • Focusing on too many things at once (i.e. too many projects or businesses at the same time).
    • Allowing (desiring?) Network Tools to interrupt our focus time.
    • Allowing our teams to interrupt us.
    • Allowing our clients/customers/patients to interrupt us.
    • Switching Costs – Productivity costs of trying to “multi-tasking”
      • “Attention Residue – a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the previous task.”
  • The danger is that we can lose our ability to perform deep work. (Cal argues that you can lose this ability permanently. Thoughts?)

The Opportunity:

  • Deep Work leads to two core abilities needed to thrive in the new economy:
    • The ability to quickly master hard things. Deep work helps you quickly learn hard things.
    • The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. Deep work helps you produce at an elite level.

The Rules:

  • Decide your Depth Philosophy – will you eliminate or minimize everything else, or will you use time blocking?
  • Ritualize:
    • Where will you work (conducive locations) and for how long? (What about working at night?)
    • How you’ll work once you start to work?
    • How you’ll support your work.
  • Don’t Work Alone (Collaborative Deep Work) – for a business owner, this may mean an off-site meeting or retreat with your leadership team.
  • Planning and Time Blocking
  • Focus – the more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish.
  • Be Lazy – Downtime aids insights. Downtime helps recharge the energy needed to work deeply. The work that evening downtime replaces is usually not that important. (Free Days)
  • Prioritize – what’s most important? How do you determine what’s most important? The rest is probably noise!
  • Say NO – turn down time-consuming commitments.
  • Quit Social Media (?)
  • Don’t try to do schedule too much Deep Work time at once. The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained.
  • This requires a change (perhaps drastic) of habits.
  • Other Productivity Tips:
    • David – what’s one of your top productivity hacks?
    • Henry – Tuning off notifications during my focus times (i.e. email, text, music, etc.)
  • Related Episodes:
    • Episode 283: Kris Ward – Time Management
    • Episode 052: Lauren Midgley – Productivity & Time Management
    • Episode 232: Personal Productivity Tips & Hacks

Episode Host: Henry Lopez is a serial entrepreneur, small business coach, and the host of this episode of The How of Business podcast show – dedicated to helping you start, run and grow your small business.


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