A few weeks ago, I received an abstract in my email. You see, one thing I’m grateful for is the way Abba reaches out to me. He knows me in and out and when He converses with me, He does from that ‘knowing’ place. I am quite analytical so when God needs to get me sometimes, He sends the same message in different ways so that I am literally locked in and unable to ignore or analyze it away and then His Spirit does the work of convicting me. Oh this father of mine…
I’ll share a few excerpts from this abstract I read, from a book titled Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.
“Current trends push you – and the rest of the world – toward shallow work. This push to network, tweet, respond quickly and multitask can fill your days with shallow work. But, that’s dangerous. Often, people automate shallow work or skip it. Putting shallow work at the center of your professional activity puts your career at risk. Shallow work has limited value; deep work offers profound value. Being able to do deep work is becoming increasingly important.
What is “Deep Work? These are Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capacities to their limit. “Shallow Work on the other hand are non cognitively demanding, logistical style tasks, often performed while distracted.”
“Without structure, it’s easy to allow your time to devolve into the shallow – email, social media, web surfing.”
“To succeed with deep work you must rewire your brain to be comfortable resisting distracting stimuli.”
“Instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.”
“Those who use their minds to create valuable things [are] rarely haphazard in their work habits.”
“When you’re done scheduling your day, every minute should be part of a block. You have, in effect, given every minute of your workday a job.”
“Figure out in advance what you’re going to do with your evenings and weekends before they begin.”
“Leave time for spontaneous inspiration. Rigidly adhering to a schedule isn’t the goal. Your objective is to use your time intentionally.”
The thing about reading this abstract was that the profundity of it applied not just to my professional life but to my whole life. Replace the professional context with spiritual for instance and it was just as valuable. There too, I was not doing much better, I was making silly mistakes and choices because of how shallow my walk with God was slowly becoming. I was doing okay on the outside but gradually becoming shallow. There was hardly any ‘planned’ time to really focus on Him just for Him and I had valid excuses.
I was musing about it and then it started coming at me from every angle. First the intense dissatisfaction with the way my life was going. At work, I felt a tad distracted even if I was delivering. I was not as productive as I wanted to be and this was because I was giving so much time to shallow work that I was unable to actively drive deep thinking and processes. In my personal life, it was not any different. I was really busy but I was not finding the peace I was accustomed to. I was always apologizing for things I could have handled if I was better organized and even my relationships began to suffer.
So God threw it at me again one Saturday evening as I drove back from Ajah with a few friends. We had an awesome fellowship in the car over that 2 hour drive and again I heard God saying to me ‘deep work.’ I wanted my passion back, I knew it was not there and I knew I needed to take a time out to find it but I did not do that just yet.
Following that, I was at my home fellowship and the theme resurfaced. It was beginning to get to me. I knew I needed to act fast and I started looking at what changes to make. The very next weekend, a friend visited and as we spoke and he listened to me talk about how the weekend went, he called me ‘Martha’. I tried to defend myself but the Holy Spirit told me he was right. I was everywhere but there was minimal productivity because my life was so cluttered.
I knew I was losing it. I had still not made the changes I needed to make but a few days ago, my phone crashed. And then hard as I tried, I could not be bothered to quickly fix or replace it. I was actually relieved that I was suddenly free for a while from the many groups and ongoing conversations (which in themselves were not bad) but my inability to manage them had become major distractions to deep work for me. With the quiet I was able to place a demand on myself to think and work deep. There was such silence and calm in my life and I loved it. I was also free from the need to be there for everyone. Believe you me, no one was so desperately worried that I went off the entire network besides my family and one or two friends. No one sent emails for instance wondering why they could not reach me on my phone or to ask if I was okay. Yet, the distractions in my life sometimes stemmed from me trying to respond as quickly as I could to everyone or to just work. I looked at my life and saw several unfinished products and such inefficiency. Oh, the pain of ‘shallow work.
That’s when I finally realized that everyone else will be okay. The world will not stop. That was when I finally got the message that I was not as important in the grand scheme of things if I was only giving back shallow work. I owed it to myself and to God to create a serenity in my life to promote deep work, physically, spiritually and emotionally and that’s the only way I can empty myself and fulfill purpose. I owed it to myself to focus and eliminate all these distractions to be more productive. That in itself is a form of worship. Men will see us and glorify our father ‘cos we keep it all together and excel at it as well.
So, right now I am in soul maintenance mode. I love this quiet and I love the ‘deep work’ that I can achieve from this place. I am not sure how I am going to deal when I get a new phone but I know something has shifted and things are changing through the very core of my life.
So, it’s taken a while to get my full attention but Abba, you have it now. It’s a radical change I know you’re requesting me to make but I am so ready for it. So ready to get into the deep work zone in every way. If an improvement in the sphere of work requires dogmatic, protected stretches of deeply focused work like the book says, progress in spiritual discipline or any other deliberate discipline is not an exception. What’s your story? What is keeping you from deep work? What changes do you need to make?
Are you ready to get into the Deep Work Zone?
Have a fantastic weekend ahead.