Andrew White

Training for deep work

I was listening to Cal Newport again today while doing housework, and he had tips for developing the ability to focus and do deep work. He likened it to training for an athletic pursuit. First you have the general wellness stuff like eating well, getting enough sleep, etc. Then you have the targeted stuff: swimming laps, doing timed sprints, whatever.

In deep work, the general wellness stuff comes down to a willingness to be bored, and the ability to engage with something that’s more than just a quick hit. Here he said do things like run errands, take walks, without something to distract you. Leave your phone at home. And read books. Of any kind.

For focused training: set a timer, and do one thing until that timer goes off. If you get distracted, it doesn’t count. Track your repetitions, and when you can easily do a short period, lengthen your times. Keep at it until you can do 90 minutes.

Interesting and actionable tips.