In a recent New York Times article, Cal Newport discussed the concept of Deep Work. This concept entails eliminating distractions such as email notifications and social media and focusing on the work that really makes a difference in our lives and in our careers.
While the Deep Work Newport talks about is imperative to our success, there’s another integral and often overlooked aspect of performing Deep Work. And, it’s just as valuable, if not more so, than the very work you do.
It’s taking the time to think
Many of us take thinking for granted. We don’t put near as much effort into thinking as working. We’ve been conditioned to believe that working harder and harder will yield better and better results. We keep our nose to the grindstone without ever looking up. We assume this is the only way to reach our goals and our ideal life.
We need to take the time to think about what we’re working so hard towards. We need to direct our efforts in the right places. Not only do we need to work harder, we need to work smarter.
And this can only happen when we take time to think each day. What do we think about though when taking this time to think?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you’re taking the time to think each day:
- Why are you doing what you’re currently doing?
- What personal values or goals are you trying to embody and reach?
- Does what you’re doing on a daily basis align with these values and goals?
- What does your ideal life look like?
- Are you on track to reach this ideal life, or do you need to recalibrate?
- Are the habits and disciplines you’re currently engaged in moving you closer to your ideal life, or further away from it?
- Are those you associate with helping you move towards your ideal life, or hurting you?
Reflect on prior events and circumstances and adjust if necessary if you’re not getting your desired results. Reflect on what has been working and what is bringing you closer to your ideal life. Keep doing that!
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The deep-work thinking necessary to bring you closer to your ideal life cannot be done while multi-tasking. We need dedicated time to focus and think about something bigger, something other than the immediate task at hand or the next email or text message to respond to.
Plan time to think and reflect each day
Block out a time on your calendar solely dedicated to thinking and treat it like any other appointment you have. If you leave thinking to “when you have time” it’ll never happen. Get up 30 minutes earlier each morning, when no one else is awake and things are quiet, to give yourself this necessary time to think. Think as hard as you work.