I have read Deep Work by Cal Newport twice now and I will most certainly read it again within the year. I can honestly count on two hands how many books have changed my life for the better and this is one of them, and I have read a LOT of books on business and personal development (as they go hand-in-hand).
This book should be required reading for anyone that wants to do meaningful work and make an impact on their lives and the lives of others. I assume if you are reading this you are that person and I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the book and read it asap. I genuinely think it is that important.
The book breaks down the importance of removing distractions from your life if you want to do deep work, and why deep work is absolutely critical to your success. What you focus on and where your attention goes is what you will get out of life. If you are constantly being pulled in a million different directions you will find yourself lost and confused.
Social media is just one of the reasons why we can’t seem to get as much done as we would like and it is the best at distracting you. In the book, he outlines several other culprits, but social media is hands down the biggest threat to you actually thriving in today and tomorrow’s economy.
Below is the author Cal Newport speaking back in 2016 in front of a TEDx audience doing his best to debunk the common myths and misconceptions around what a life without social media looks like. It covers the core principle in the book but does not dive into the deep end of what deep work actually looks like.
When watching this video, I found it funny that the arguments I had for keeping my social accounts and staying active on social were debunked time and time again as we walked through each objection.
Obviously, if you are a freelancer and run your own business this is a difficult pill to swallow and not necessarily one that I would recommend in all cases. For example, if you are a freelance photographer, having an Instagram account is going to be a great way to get your brand out there and drive attention to your work.
However, I personally know a few photographers, granted they are older, that do not have Instagram accounts, and have won awards for their photography, and are highly sought after. They have no trouble finding work because they rely on word-of-mouth marketing to find new clients, or should I say the clients find them.
There is more than one way to go about it and there are certainly holes you can poke in his argument based on your professional pursuits but one thing I know from personal experience he has gotten right is the invaluable benefits of “time blocking”.
Time Blocking is building a system that allows you to work on what you want, when you want, by avoiding distractions and maintaining autonomy over your day. The other approach is starting your day by checking your inbox and reacting to whatever your clients or the world has thrown at you that day.
Social media does this by sending you down rabbit holes of silly entertainment or nonsense research on a subject that really doesn’t matter to you in the long run. Email is no different in that the person sending you the email is asking for your attention and to tend to their needs.
The only way to avoid this trap is to turn everything off and work on the things that you know you need to get done. It could be sales calls, building a website for your freelance services, building your portfolio, marketing your services, work for an existing client, or anything else that is critical in achieving your freelancing goals.
In this interview with Cal Newport by Lex Freidman, Cal explains how time blocking works and why it is so important.
So what are your thoughts? Would avoiding distractions and blocking time off on your calendar make you more productive? Would the work be more meaningful in the long run? Would you outpace your peers because the majority of them are wasting time endlessly scrolling through their social feeds only to be left feeling empty and behind on life when they are done?
Sound dramatic? It shouldn’t there is an overwhelming amount of evidence coming out that social media and the endless chasing of dopamine hits is making us unhappy, unproductive, and unfulfilled.
You don’t have to dive into the deep end here. You can dip your toes in by simply blocking off an hour today, then 1.5 hours tomorrow, and 2 hours the next day until you feel you can maintain focus to do deep work even longer.
Then just keep pushing the limits but don’t burn yourself out. Keep in mind that burnout can lead to worse outcomes than taking your time.
So get started. Block off some time right now to get to work. Turn off your phone, don’t check email, don’t check your socials, just decide on the one task that is most important right now and get that shit done. Go.