Shallow Work Isn't Poisonous

June 30, 2021

Shallow work isn't poisonous.

Are you afraid of shallow work?

Ever since Cal Newport's book about deep work, people interested in productivity have been obsessed with maximizing how much deep work they do, and minimizing time in the shallow end.

I've talked to someone who said they would finally feel productive once they'd "eliminated" all shallow work from their job.

But is that even the right approach?

Is 40-some-hours of deep work per week even possible?

I'm going to say no.

Part of the point of deep work is that it's challenging, it's heavy, it's exhausting.

It's the mental equivalent of a high intensity workout.

And even the most elite athletes don't spend ALL their practice time at high intensity.

Instead, they often use intervals in their training. Alternating between high and low intensity. And don't forget about rest days!

What if you took that same approach to your work?

Instead of trying to eliminate shallow work, you can minimize and optimize it. You can schedule time for it so it doesn't encroach on deeper projects. You can use energy management to time it for when you need a break from the deep.

The Work Brighter approach to deep work isn't necessarily trying to do as much of it as possible, rather it's to find the right balance and cadence of deep versus shallow.

If this essay helped you learn something or think differently, please consider sending a tip. I love writing about doing marketing differently, but spending my energy this way has real repercussions for my health and business.