The Pomodoro technique, Feynman’s technique, cute stationery, dotted journals, classical music – students have sworn by a number of these tools as their secret to ultimate productivity and academic success.
However, most of these tools do not target the underlying problem that hurts a student’s efficiency: distractions.
Deep work is the real solution that every student needs but may not necessarily know about.
What is Deep Work?
This term was coined by Cal Newport, author of The Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
In his book, he observes the technique used by influential personalities, such as Carl Jung and Bill Gates, that allowed them to focus solely on the task at hand for long stretches of time.
The state of deep focus allowed them to come up with ground-breaking inventions, such as pioneering a new school of thought in psychology in the case of Jung.
Newport named this technique Deep Work and defined it as working in a state of distraction-free concentration that allowed one to create new value and improve one’s skills.
Here is a list of reasons why Deep Work is essential for every student.
1. Deep Work Makes You More Efficient
Let us imagine a student, Jake. He is a graduate student and an aspiring Fine Arts major. He has rounded up a list of universities that offer the best MFA programs to fulfill his dreams.
He wants to ace the admission interview, so he starts working on his application. But because Jake is working in a distraction-filled environment, he gets very little done.
Now imagine if Jake were using the deep work method. He sets up a time and sits in a quiet place to work on his personal statement.
He puts his phone on silent and gets rid of all the distractions. He focuses his attention wholly and solely on the task at hand: writing his personal statement.
Because he would be less distracted and able to give his whole attention to the task at hand, he will come up with a better and more creative personal statement using deep work.
2. Deep Work Supports Students’ Wellness
Students have to work long and hard for their exams, yet not many get the results that they’d want.
Doing something and looking like a busy bee doesn’t mean you are productive. With divided attention, it’s hard to accomplish anything.
When we flit about between tasks without completing one, an attention residue occurs that leads us to perform below our potential for every task that we commit ourselves to.
Attention residue means that a part of your attention is still stuck in the former task while you try and focus on a new one in the present.
Understandably, constant task switching leads to fatigue and lowers performance, leaving the student feeling stressed.
Deep Work spares you this conundrum. Firstly, it gives you really good results. Coming out of deep work, one feels accomplished and rewarded.
Secondly, deep work removes putting strain on your brain that can often occur due to multitasking and uses all your effort on a single task instead.
Further, having wrapped up your study session in a set number of hours gives you ample time to indulge and pursue other hobbies and interests, thereby leading to stress relief.
3. Deep Work Is Not Just a Technique, It’s a Superpower
According to a recent study, the attention span of humans has fallen below that of the goldfish to 8 seconds (a goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds).
The digital revolution of the 21st Century has plagued us with distractions. Humans are hindered in their ability to focus on goals, long-term plans, personal aims, etc.
The ability to devote 100% of your attention to something is a highly valuable skill. You can ace your project, write best-selling novels, or become a valedictorian at your college.
Once you start deep work, you will become limitless in focusing your attention on things and tasks of value for a longer duration.
It is no wonder that Newport calls the skill of deep work the superpower of the 21st Century.
Hopefully, you are now convinced of the power of deep work and would want to get started on your own.
Newport suggests four strategies for incorporating deep work into our lives. Of course, there is no best strategy that is relevant to your needs and requirements.
This strategy of deep work suggests completely ridding yourself of any shallow work. Shallow work is the opposite of deep work.
In shallow work, people perform repetitive, monotonous tasks in the presence of distractions.
As a result, they perform all tasks without paying much attention to them. You look busy, but these tasks don’t add any value or enhance any of your skill development.
For you to get into the monastic mode, you’ll have to isolate yourself, far away from any sorts of distractions.
This strategy suggests practicing deep work for only a few days of every week while freeing up the rest of the week for shallow work.
This is the easiest one of the three for beginners. It suggests you set aside a couple of hours every day for deep work, so you eventually develop a habit of deep working.
The ideal focus time is three to four hours.
This strategy of deep work suggests practicing deep work whenever you get the time to work on a project that requires it.
Unlike other strategies, it gives you the flexibility to practice whenever your schedule allows for it.
Of course, discipline is of significance here as you have to slip into deep work after long stretches of working the opposite way.
As the world advances, only those who either own capital, work with intelligent machinery, or are masters of their field will prosper.
Deep work allows you to learn difficult concepts quickly and equips you with the ability to produce at an elite level.
The combination of these skills will make you the superstar of your field. Deep work might feel like hard work at first, but it’s what gets the job done.