Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Deep Work by Cal Newport

"An often-overlooked observation about those who use their minds to create valuable things is that they're rarely haphazard in their work habits. Consider the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Robert Caro. As revealed in a 2009 magazine profile, "every inch of [Caro's] New York office is governed by rules." Where he places his books, how he stacks his notebooks, what he puts on his wall, even what he wears to the office: Everything is specified by a routine that has varied little over Caro's long career. "I trained myself to be organized," he explained.

'Charles Darwin had a similarly strict structure for his working life during the period when he was perfecting On the Origin of Species. As his son Francis later remembered, he would rise promptly at seven to take a short walk. He would then eat breakfast alone and retire to his study from eight to nine thirty. The next hour was dedicated to reading his letters from the day before, after which he would return to his study from ten thirty until noon. After this session, he would would mull over challenging ideas while walking on a proscribed route that started at his greenhouse and then circled a path on his property. He would walk until satisfied with his thinking then declare his workday done.

...'In a New York Times column on the topic, David Brooks summarizes this reality more bluntly: [Great creative minds] think like artists but work like accountants."

'This strategy suggests the following: To make the most out of your deep work sessions, build rituals of the same level of strictness and idiosyncrasy as the important thinkers mentioned previously. There's a good reason for this mimicry. Great minds like Caro and Darwin didn't deploy rituals to be weird; they did so because success in their work depended on their ability to go deep, again and again - they're no way to win a Pulitzer Prize or conceive a grand theory without pushing your brain to its limit. Their rituals minimized the friction in this transition to depth, allowing them to go deep more easily and stay in the state longer."

Deep Work by Cal Newport, pp. 117-119

Related Squat Rx Posts:
Rituals - Dan John
The Power of Habit

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