Using Cal Newport’s deep work to help balance your work with your personal life
Lawyers are some of the most stressed professionals in the world and you certainly don't need me to tell you that. Work-life balance is so important when you are in a high stress career that often involves long days and time on the weekends. Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University and the author of several self-help books for students and professionals suggests that "deep work" is one way to help balance things. Time management is often brought up as key to balancing work and life and that is true, but being efficient and effective during the time you've allotted for working helps you make even better use of your time.
Newport published his latest book titled Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World in January and it has quickly garnered extensive praise. He defines deep work as "professional activities performed in a state of distraction free concentration" and lays out four rules to achieve deep work:
1. Work deeply
Working deeply is the most important rule, hence the name of the book, and is about giving the task at hand your undivided attention. Deep work is for the big, difficult, intensive tasks that take up a lot of your mental energy. Once you start on a task, give it all your attention and avoid distractions. You will be able to knock out these cognitive demanding tasks much more quickly this way.
2. Embrace boredom
Schedule times to take a break from your deep work and don't fill that break with a million different distractions. Constantly multitasking without ever letting yourself be bored makes it much harder to focus when you need to. Being alone with your thoughts is also great for your mental health, especially if you use the time to reflect on all that you have to be thankful for.
3. Quit social media
You don't have to quit cold turkey, but limiting your social media intake can be very beneficial to your productivity and work-life balance. I know I'm not the only one to open Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and look up to find that more time has passed than I thought. Picking one service that brings you happiness is a better route than having every social media service available.
4. Drain the shallows
Shallow work can take up hours of your work day and it's obvious why we prefer it to deep work: doing myriad small mundane tasks makes us feel productive. Shallow tasks suck up your time and should be done all at once. It takes a considerable amount of time to reorient yourself when you're jumping from task to task all day long, but budgeting time at the beginning and end of your day for shallow tasks will help you knock them out quickly and get back to deep work.