Deep work: what is it? How and why to get started?

Deep work: what is it?  How and why to get started?

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What is “deep work”? What are the benefits of this working method and how to get into “deep work” mode? Insights and advice from coach and trainer Lydia Plassais.

What is Deep Work?

Working method adopted by billionaire Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, deep work consists of “to work in high concentration and depth”deciphers Lydia Plassais, coach, trainer, author of the book « Free up your time! : and enjoy your life » (available on Amazon). This means that we work, for a given period of time, at a very high pace and intensity, eradicating all distractions, to achieve a greater efficiency and greater productivity.

Deep work: how many hours per day?

According to the American Cal Newport, professor at Georgetown University and author of the book purchased all over the world Deep Work, regaining concentration in a world of distractions (Ed. Alisio) – to whom we owe the creation of this concept in 2016 – he is difficult to concentrate deeply for more than 4 hours daily, because physiologically, it is very difficult. Furthermore, “while some, like Albert Einstein for example, have the ability to put themselves in deep work mode for 4 consecutive hours, for most employees this state of high attention is split”, specifies Lydia Plassais. According to her, the brain can quite easily have the capacity to stay 1 to 2 consecutive hours in high concentration mode on complex tasks, then it is necessary to take a break before getting back to it. In addition, out of an 8-hour office day, there are at least 4 hours left that we will be able to devote to something other than what requires the most of our attention, that is to say the so-called “superficial” work. “.

The benefits of deep work

Among the advantages of this working method, the coach and trainer notes that this way of working in depth allows us tobe significantly more efficient. Indeed, “the objective is to work in a state of flow, that is to say that we are both ultra-concentrated and as we generate dopamine – the pleasure hormone – we experience a pleasant feeling.. In short, by adopting this work strategy, employees take pleasure in investing in their tasks rather than enduring their day. Other advantages of deep work: concentrating better allows us to be better at our job and to win time. In the end, we obtain better results through quality work and free up free time. Currently, in certain professional environments, we traditionally move from one task to another (allowing on average 30 to 45 minutes). As a result, we lack time to invest deeply in our task and we remain superficial. Moreover, as Lydia Plassais reports, “to enter an intense thinking mode, it takes a few minutes and often when we reach this state, we are already disturbed by our emails, our phone or a colleague”. However, she adds, “Every time we are interrupted by the slightest distraction, it will take us 5 minutes to refocus on our task again. It’s a significant waste of time.” Conversely, when you work in deep work mode for 2 hours in the morning, you concentrate on a given subject, without interruption. A strategy that allows “produce enormously both in quantity and quality because you will have time to mobilize your entire brain to its limit” she explains. And, at the end of the day, applying this working method generates greater satisfaction, “we come home with a real feeling of having accomplished something. No matter the project or the job, we have the feeling of duty accomplished and we no longer go to bed thinking about everything we should have done, or what we still have to do.”, she assures. In the same way, deep work contributes to feel less overwhelmed or overcome by the feeling that we are not going to make it. In terms of benefits, it can also allow people who tend to leave work late to leave work earlier. “If we are more focused, we accomplish more and we have less need to work overtime”, remarks Lydia Plassais. Deep work can also save us from having to bring files home in the evening and allow us to fully enjoy the present moment. According to her, we can also apply it to all areas of our life (children, sports activities, meals), to experience more pleasure and happiness.

Deep work: how to get started?

First advice from our expert: during these deep work periods, it is essential to mute all notifications : emails, social networks, telephone so as not to be disturbed. The strategy for avoiding distractions? We put our smartphone, as much as possible, in “airplane” or “do not disturb” mode. Note that Jk Rowling, the famous author of the “Harry Potter” books, practices Deep Work when she writes, and drastically since she completely cuts herself off from her social networks. The rest of the time, we devote ourselves to other less complex tasks, requiring less concentration, which Cal Newport called Shallow work (superficial work), such as checking your mailbox, answering phone calls, scheduling meetings, sending files, etc. “This is what I called in my book the batch work, specifies Lydia Plassais. These are all other tasks noted on our to-do-list. According to her, among the useful tools, “writing to-do lists can help people to effectively engage in deep work, to prioritize and prioritize objectives and to unload our brains from all the tasks we have to do, to stay focused on our work” . Deep work is the most intense time of the day, where we will use the most of our skills and our cognitive abilities. “It is also essential to to make a break to recharge, because we cannot function at 200% all the time”, she recalls. Breaks therefore serve to give our brain a little rest and not overuse it. We alternate between phases of deep work, breaks, batch work, then again we return to concentration mode. And, to know what time slot to set for deep work and batch work, we will have to get to know ourselves, understand a little about our chronobiology in order to identify at what time of the day we are most efficient and therefore the most productive. What about notifications, personal calls and various searches on the Internet and other sources of distraction such as social networks? Lydia Plassais advises setting up dedicated time slots for them too. For example, 15 minutes before or after returning from lunch break. What is also important: go there gradually. “On average, today, the concentration time of an adult is 20 minutes. So we don’t set the bar too high from the start, otherwise it risks being too difficult and discouraging”notes the coach. “During my training, I suggest to my clients to start by planning 1 hour of practice, then start the timer, and when they see that their mind is shifting, to look at the time of deep work completed. Generally, 45 minutes”, she relates. Over the weeks, we will get into the habit and be able to gradually increase by moving to a goal of 1 hour, then 1h30… until we reach 2 hours of consecutive deep work. Cal Newport suggests, for his part, four organizational approaches to integrate this work philosophy into our days:

  • The “monastic” philosophya strategy which consists of eliminating as much as possible all forms of distractions at work.
  • The “bimodal” philosophy : this method consists of fragmenting our schedule so as to alternate slots of deepwork and easier tasks.
  • The “rhythmic” philosophy. To sustainably integrate deep work into our daily lives, we set work routines distributed at fixed times.
  • The “journalistic” philosophy. Reserved for initiates, this approach allows you to quickly and intensely enter a state of deep work.

Note that there are also other books to help you adopt a better work organization, like Getting Things Done, the art of stress-free productivity the David Allen.