Deep Work in a Distracting World



The world that we live in is constantly evolving and changing every second of the day. Every day is a new beginning that can cause someone to take a step forward and make something better whether it’s technology, medicine, or even improving and bettering themselves through gaining new knowledge and skills. Along with these advances comes distractions that are everywhere at any given moment 24/7. How do we continue to create all of these advances in a world that can be so distracting? 

Cal Newport is the author of the book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. He explains how in today’s society there are a lot of distractions, specifically technology being the thing that causes most of us to loose our focus on what we were doing and in the midst of it all we struggle to produce our greatest outcomes. If you think about it, smartphones have become extremely popular and advanced and is basically glued to everyone’s hands that no matter the place or time of day you can usually see everyone staring at the screens. They are always close enough that if it rings or gets a notification, it can be answered or seen within seconds. This is problematic when it comes to working and performing tasks that can be difficult. In an article, “Having Your Smartphone Nearby Takes a Toll on Your Thinking” by Kristen Duke, Adrian Ward, Ayelet Gneezy, and Maarten Bos, they talk about how having your smartphone nearby in the same room while you are completing your task negatively impacts your cognitive capacity by affecting your ability to think and problem-solve. I find this to be true because not only do I see it around me, but I’m guilty of doing it as well. When we have our smartphones in the same room, some of our attention and focus is on our phones waiting for a notification or a call or even by taking more breaks than is truly needed from the task we are doing. So whether we go on it or not, having our smartphones nearby while we are doing things definitely has an impact on us whether we see it or not.

Newport also mentions the phrase, “deep work”, meaning “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate,” (Newport, 3). Deep work can be incredibly helpful if we had the luxury to be in a time where we can disconnect and be distraction-free while we work. However, even though it is possible to go somewhere to disconnect, for the most part if we think about where we work, there are always distractions whether it’s from other coworkers, our cell phones, outside noises, whatever it is will never disappear just so you can be able to focus. Furthermore, in an article from the New York Times, “Technology is Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say” by Matt Richtel, he explains how it’s a struggle to get the kids to pay attention and to focus on what needs to get done because technology has impacted their ability to learn. As I mentioned earlier, technology is one of the biggest distractions and for kids learning in a world where technology has become so advanced and attainable, it’s hard to keep it from distracting the kids from learning and gaining new knowledge.

Deep work not only requires you to be distraction-free but also to spend a good chunk of time on the task that once again proves to be difficult. Students in high school for example, they go to class for about eight hours, then many do extra curriculars that can be a couple more hours, and by the time they get home they wouldn’t want to spend hours doing homework, instead they just do it to get it done. On the other hand college students have the chance to take the time and really focus on the task, however, it’s never distraction free with cell phones and friends constantly surrounding them taking some of that focus away. Cal Newport even mentions how it’s impossible and a waste of time to ask a CEO of a business to spend four hours on one task when there are a million other things that needs to be done. The reality is that in today’s society that is evolving rapidly, one’s ability to do deep work is nearly impossible to accomplish. 

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