As a software developer, I’m always looking for ways to be more productive and excel in producing great work. Unfortunately I face obstacles towards this goal especially in this age of distraction. We get distracted from social media, messaging notification, and even the urge to keep up to date with the last news or tech article. According to Cal Newport these distractions are called shallow work which is the opposite of the goal of doing deep work. I recently finished Cal Newport’s book title Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
In Cal Newport’s Deep Work research he proposes the following ideas:
In order for our brains to learn or solve something complex requires uninterrupted focused attention towards that task. We should try our best to avoid or minimize shallow work like administrative task like emails and messaging. Being able to focus intently for long periods is something that must be trained, not something that can switched on and off. Being able to do deep work brings meaning and happiness to the work we do because these are the important things. This Deep Work philosophy reminded me of an old article dating back to 2007 that describes how good software developers think and work. Paul Graham’s article Holding a Program in One’s Head, explains how a programmer can do great work when (s)he has the as much of the software in the mind so that it can be manipulated at will. He lists the following for assisting in keeping the software in the mind:
- Avoid distractions
- Work in long stretches
- Use succinct languages
- Keep rewriting your program
- Write readable code
- Work in small groups
- Don’t have multiple people editing the same piece of code
- Start small
The first two points speaks exactly to Deep Work. Doing Deep Work is today’s superpower for knowledge workers during a time when it’s most valuable but yet being eroded by the plethora of constant distraction from the internet and social media.