Cal Newport has made a strong case in his book for why deep work is valuable but rare. I was especially impressed by the arguments for why this type of activity is meaningful. For my part, I can say that when I manage to carve out several long blocks (at least 2-3 hours) for deep work on tasks during a day, I feel much more satisfied with my job at the end of the working day.
Working as a project manager, I can easily spend my day in shallow work. Numerous meeting calls, the need to be online to answer urgent questions from colleagues on various projects, chasing people to get something from them - all this strongly impedes the intention to work deeply. It even questions the possibility of deep work in the day of a project manager.
I believe, though, deep work can and should be present in the day-to-day experience of a project manager. For example, the following activities require a lot of cognitive efforts and are quite valuable:
- Analysis of project risks
- Scheduling a project taking multiple constraints into account
- Taking courses and reading books for professional development
- Mastering new software tools
- Working on process improvements within the company
- Automation of repetitive tasks
- Data analysis
As such, I find the author's recommendations to be applicable to my work as well. I do try to apply some of them on a daily basis. For example, I use the built-in Kanbanflow feature to work in Pomodoro sessions. Thus, I follow a rule from the book “Don’t Take Breaks from Distraction. Instead Take Breaks from Focus”. Before starting the Pomodoro session, I turn off instant messengers and then, I will be working focused on the task for a while, without being distracted. Afterwards, I will turn on instant messengers again to make sure that nothing is urgently expected from me.
Kanbanflow also keeps statistics on the time spent in depth mode, which helps me understand how deeply I worked during the last week, for example, and generally understand the trend. This allows me to remain vigilant and not deviate from the intended strategy. Basically, this corresponds to the rule called “Keep a Compelling Scoreboard”.
I highly recommend this book to all knowledge workers. Browse the mindmap I've prepared to outline the book's structure.